Guilty plea offers little respite for family still looking for answers

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

A logging company prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for the death of forestry worker Te Oho Mauri Piripi Bartlett, has pleaded guilty.

“The company that's involved with this one here, we saw them once or twice around the time we had Piri at his house here, they delivered some Pak'N'Save vouchers for kai obviously, and we've never seen them again", says family member Willie Waitoa. 

“Our whānau's are going to be putting in victim impact statements and we'll be here to deliver them and hopefully the company owners so we can see them too we'll be keen to look at them face to face so they can see what sort of hurt has come to our families", says Waitoa.

Te Oho Mauri Piripi Bartlett was tragically killed in a forestry accident in 2017. The logging company has been prosecuted by WorkSafe under Section 36 and Section 48 of the Health and Safety at Work 2015 Act.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Willie Waitoa says the relationship with Worksafe NZ started off well but has gradually declined over the two years.

“Having three different pathologists talk about what had happened with my nephew, one pathologist has got one story, the other pathologist has got another one, and try and get a third one in and the third one goes a dollar each way with both those pathologists, and us as a family we still standing here not knowing what's gone on, we still don't know how our man passed and they're just playing a whole lot of guessing games", says Waitoa.

In a statement to Te Ao Māori News, WorkSafe NZ says, "WorkSafe has been conscious throughout of the grief this family is suffering after losing a loved member. We have engaged consistently and sensitively with the family to keep them informed of the progress of our investigation and now the prosecution."

Family members say they've been left in the dark and are unhappy with the process undertaken by WorkSafe New Zealand.

"When the company in question has full disclosure, they have the summary of facts they have the witness statements, they know how to decipher every little bits and pieces of how this case is going to unfold, we get nothing, so as the family they just, they've given us nothing we've had nothing", says Waitoa.

Born and bred in Te Araroa, Te Oho Mauri Piripi Bartlett was just 23 years old when he was fatally injured in the forestry accident. Another family member, Niko Brooking-Hodgson, also died within a year in another forestry accident.

The family are calling for more safety measures to be put in place for forestry workers.

“Maybe we could have GoPros on all our men that go out to work in the forestry, maybe we could have cameras that are on our hauliers, maybe they could do something like how they have for serious crash units for vehicles maybe we could have something like that develop in the forestry", says Waitoa.

The sentencing of the logging company involved will take place on October 17.