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Companies plead not guilty to charges over fatal NZ gas explosion

30 April 2012

Two companies have pleaded not guilty to five health and safety charges after a worker was killed in a tunnel blast last year. Canadian engineer Philomen Gulland was killed and six others injured in an explosion in the Auckland suburb of Onehunga on June 4, 2011.

Watercare Chief Executive Mark Ford
Watercare Chief Executive Mark Ford

The team had been inspecting a water main when the accident happened.

Auckland Council-owned Watercare denied three charges brought by the Department of Labour, including failing to ensure the safety of its employees, in Auckland District Court. Piping contractor Canadian Pacific Ltd faces the same charge as well as failing to ensure its employees did not harm anyone else.

Watercare chief executive Mark Ford said the company was committed to learning lessons from the tragic accident.

''We have always had a strong focus on workplace health and safety and prior to this incident we had an 18-month period without a single lost-time injury.

''Preliminary inquiries show that the specifics of this incident - where reticulated gas entered a drained water main - appear to be unprecedented in the water industry anywhere in the world.''

The case was adjourned until August.

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