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rage, exploding head, rant
rage, exploding head, rant

BusinessJune 23, 2018

If I read one more story about regulatory failure my head is going to explode

rage, exploding head, rant
rage, exploding head, rant

I swear to god.

Two stories this week made me very angry. The first was about a spot of bother in the towbar industry. Two engineers responsible for certifying towbars have been suspendedamid safety investigations into broken and cracked towing connections on heavy truck-trailers”.

Heavy truck-trailers you say? Sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? And it is. “The first suspension was of Peter Wastney of Nelson, after a trailer he certified snapped right off a truck on the Hope Saddle last August. The truck operator has described it as a “sickening” close call.”

Yikes. Really serious, then. Who is suspended engineer number 2? “The second engineer suspended is Dick Joyce, a double Olympic gold medallist in rowing, who runs the biggest heavy vehicle certifying firm in the Wellington region, at Seaview.”

He runs the biggest heavy vehicle certifying firm in Welly. OK. But what happened? The regulator, the New Zealand Transport Agency, suspended him because of unsatisfactory audits. Mr Joyce had been audited quite frequently, the story says, and given a chance to demonstrate improvement, but his performance got worse and worse. Sad. But the system worked! They caught the guy! They stopped him!

So you’d think the engineering industry would be all over this professional misstep. And you’d be right, with Joyce suspended as a chartered professional engineer in January 2016 – Engineering New Zealand saying it suspended Mr Joyce’s registration two years ago as he “did not demonstrate proof of current competence in his most recent assessment”.

How was it that he was allowed to continue certifying for years without being a chartered engineer? Because engineers don’t need to be chartered professionals to work as certifiers.

Rage level is now moderate to slightly sweaty. Now let’s read the rest of the story.

“Industry insiders speak of some serious problems confined to a handful of certifiers, exacerbated by a decade or more of hands-off regulation by NZTA.”


“In the Wastney case, RNZ understands the crucial job files on virtually all the truck-trailers were missing lots of key information.”


“It is understood the Transport Agency’s sole heavy vehicle certification auditor John Long had been warning the agency for years about this, but the agency let Mr Wastney carry on.”

Sole heavy vehicle certification auditor? THE AGENCY LET HIM CARRY ON?

“The wider issues are that trucks have been allowed to get bigger, while at the same time the rules have been getting looser: For instance, truckers no longer need to get semi-trailer kingpins checked at 100,000km like they used to.”

Makes sense (sarcasm font).

“In addition, the New Zealand Standard that governs engineering quality is seen by some in the industry as being weak, and some engineers prefer using the Australian Standard.”

Of course.

“RNZ previously reported on years of concerns within NZTA about some semi-trailer designs leading to corrosion and cracking, culminating in a safety alert in February covering 1000 semi-trailers, mostly refrigerated units.”


So let’s move on to the next rage-inducing piece, again on RNZ. You may have missed it, but Tolaga Bay on the East Coast of the North Island experienced some weather recently. Now weather happens, but what happened this time was something else. The land in Tolaga Bay has been befouled by the forestry industry, and “massive damage caused by thousands of tonnes of forestry debris washing onto farms and blocking rivers”.

The pictures defy belief. To the words, then.

“The forestry sector is having its own leaky building moment and inadequate regulation means it will be left up to the courts to decide who is liable for damage caused by slash in Tolaga Bay, a lawyer says.”


“Hazel Armstrong, a former member of the Independent Forestry Safety Review Board that investigated the high rate of forestry deaths, said it was unlikely insurance companies would pay out liability to flood-affected landowners in Tolaga Bay, because forestry owners knew there were risks.”

Oh at least no one died, I guess that is a bright side.

“Frustrated Tolaga Bay locals at a meeting with forestry companies last night said they still did not know who was to blame for the massive damage caused by thousands of tonnes of forestry debris washing onto farms and blocking rivers, and who will pay for the clean up and compensation.”


“When asked by flood-affected landowners at the meeting last night, forestry companies refused to say if they had liability insurance and whether it would be paid out.”


“Ms Armstrong said the de-regulation of the forestry industry made it difficult to hold anyone to account, and like the de-regulation of the construction industry which led to leaky homes, an overhaul of forestry was needed.”

SGIYDEGHLHLUKWHJGhufrhjkfhjkadfjhldfhjldfhjaehjl (that’s my head banging the keyboard).

“Successive governments have left the forestry sector to its own devices, there’s been no leadership, inadequate legislation and inadequate oversight of the sector…it’s a system failure,” she said.

It’s the system. It failed. Bummer. I wish there was something we could do. Apart from have exploding heads.

Because the story is not only these two stories, this week, it’s a story that runs over and over year after year, etc etc, and they’re becoming boringly familiar.

Deregulation blamed for our broken health and safety system. A case study of self-regulation at Pike River.

Or, you know, any of the million stories about the leaky/structural/unsafe and not fire safe buildings unleashed on us after the building industry was deregulated. Like this one, from this week, about the $43 million repair bill/burden these poor Auckland homeowners are suffering through. (And I’ll chuck in a plug for some of my back catalogue of horrors about high-rises here).

This stuff just keeps happening!

But we don’t need new rules, oh no. Of course not. Or at least according to Forest Owners Association spokesperson Don Carson, who after the tonnes of destruction of other people’s property and livelihoods by his industry, did not think any new rules were needed.

“We’ve just gone through an overhaul of the regulations, the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry came in on May 1st.”

Not again.

“While that did not apply to the slash in Tolaga Bay, the sector was aware of its need to improve its practices.”


“But Mr Carson said the sector was aware it needed to improve… We’re looking at the vulnerability to climate change…and our harvest practices to reduce the risk of what happened in Tolaga Bay. There are no easy solutions, if there were we would have done them,” he said.


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