DOC convicted over volunteer's death

The Department of Conservation has been criticised for not having adequate safety measures in place when a volunteer died while taking water temperatures on remote Raoul Island in January.

The department (DOC) was today convicted of failing to ensure the safety of Romanian volunteer Mihai Muncus-Nagy, but no further sanction was imposed because it had already paid his family $60,000 compensation.

It's believed Mr Muncus-Nagy slipped into the sea as he was taking temperature readings from water on Fishing Rock at the island about 1000km northeast of New Zealand.

An extensive search failed to find any sign of the 33-year-old and he is thought to have drowned.

During sentencing in Auckland District Court today, DOC lawyer Erynn Hughes said the department had already paid Mr Muncus-Nagy's family compensation, and paid for his wife and her father to come to New Zealand and Raoul Island.

Judge Chris Field deemed that "entirely appropriate'' and did not impose any further penalty on top of the conviction.

"They've (DOC) taken this very personally and have been supporting them (Mr Muncus-Nagy's family) in a number of different ways.''

Judge Field said there were several areas where DOC failed to ensure the safety of their employee.

It could have sent a second person with him to carry out the work, and ensured he had a life-jacket or personal locator beacon, he said.

"These are some practicable steps that DOC could have taken in this instance.''

Judge Field said Mr Muncus-Nagy's death had ``dramatically'' affected his wife's life: "She is daily reminded of his absence and feels an ongoing sense of loss and grief.''

Speaking outside court, DOC's deputy director of operations Sue Cosford said it had strengthened safety procedures on Raoul Island since the incident.

"We've instigated a significant number of improvements to ... ensure our people are safe when they are working on the island. In the case of this particular activity on Fishing Rock, we are no longer doing water temperature testing there.

"This was a truly tragic accident. We greatly regret Mihai's loss, it's been very devastating obviously for his family and for our team here. He was a really well-liked, respected member of the team.''

A plaque had been erected on the island in Mr Muncus-Nagy's memory.


DOC didn't pay this man's family $60,000 - the taxpayers did. In the past few years DOC have made many mistakes - Cave Creek, protected snails freezing to death, a helicopter dropping brodificoum over a lake in Fiordland, 1080 poisoning of kea not once but twice... and so the list of mistakes goes on.
Why we need DOC is a mystery to me when everything they do seems to turn to custard. We were doing OK with the rabbit boards we had and the catchment boards etc before DOC was invented. Let's get back to what we once had - when our rivers were clean, when NZ truly was the cleanest, greenest country in the world.

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