Bridges cops flak over forestry review

Simon Bridges.
Simon Bridges.
Labour says it is "pathetic" that Labour Minister Simon Bridges will not commit to attending an industry led-review of safety in the forestry industry.

Mr Bridges' office was asked several times last week whether he would attend the review after William Bryant, 53, was killed by a falling log on a private forestry block in the Wairau Valley on Thursday.

The review, to be held this year, was launched by industry organisations and unions after Mr Bridges ruled out a Government-led inquiry.

A spokeswoman for Mr Bridges said the health and safety regulator, WorkSafe NZ, would provided secretariat support and contribute to the industry-led inquiry.

But she would not confirm the minister's attendance, saying: "The minister has not considered the matter."

When pressed, she said Mr Bridges "has not received any information about the inquiry to consider".

Further requests for confirmation went unanswered.

Labour forestry spokesman Shane Jones said the response was "pathetic".

"What we've got is a juvenile politician trying to act like an adult, and he's playing an infant's game called pass the parcel," he said.

"I would have thought that there's considerable upside for the minister to show genuine concern, but also demonstrate to the families and to the broader community that he's willing to be a part of this initiative."

Labour's labour spokesman Andrew Little said the industry's shocking death rate was a matter of record and Mr Bridges should turn up to the review.

Failing to do so would be a "dereliction of duty on his part as minister".

"I don't think there's any question about taking more time to consider it - the discussion about the industry-led review has been around for some months," he said.

"This is a matter that the minister ought to be across. There shouldn't be anything particularly political in it, but it is a matter of responsibility for him, and leadership, and he should be part of it."

Both Labour MPs have said they would turn up to the review.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly, who has been involved in discussions about the review, said appointments to the review panel were yet to be announced.

It would be up to the panel to decide the review process and who they wanted to attend. Ms Kelly did not want to comment on Mr Bridge's attendance before those details were confirmed.

Mr Bridges last week said the Government's enforcement approach would help lead to change in the industry, but the forestry industry also had to play its part and make changes to keep its workers safe.

"The Government does not support a Government-led inquiry into the forestry sector as we believe the collaborative work underway will help make sustainable change."

Last year, 10 people died in forestry accidents.


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