Media Release 16 February 2016

Health and safety flows through to river clean up

The new health and safety workplace legislation that becomes law in a few weeks will see a significant change in the way the Waikato River Authority funds river clean up projects.
The Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force on 4 April 2016 and will put greater responsibility on funding organisations such as the Waikato River Authority. With around $15 million of funded work across approximately 100 current projects the Authority will now need to go further in ensuring worker safety.
Authority chief executive, Bob Penter, says the legal advice that has been received indicates a shift in liability for the Authority and similar funders.
“While we have always been very conscious of health and safety, the Authority has previously regarded those undertaking the project work to have been primarily responsible for work safety. Under the new legislation, they continue to have primary responsibility but the Authority also has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of workers completing funded projects.”
The Waikato River Authority has begun making changes to its operations and its funding criteria for river clean up projects as a result of the new law.
Mr Penter says all projects previously funded by the Authority, and still not completed, are being contacted to ensure health and safety planning meets all requirements. The Authority will also be changing its funding application to require mandatory health and safety systems and implementation for all future projects.

“We are hoping that some of our smaller project owners will be able to adapt to the new laws without too much difficulty and that there isn’t a drop off in successful applications from private land owners and smaller community groups that rely on volunteers,” says Mr Penter.
“Project owners need to show us that they meet the required standards around health and safety so that we can continue to make funding available.” Mr Penter says there are considerable resources available through the government agency Worksafe New Zealand to help with health and safety preparedness.
The Waikato River Authority has recently asked for Expressions of Interest from Health and Safety advisors with a view to providing some support to river clean up projects within budget limitations.
“We still expect that the projects we fund will have complying Health and Safety but we are going further than we have to follow up with them to ensure this is happening.”
The Waikato River Authority has distributed approximately $27 million to about 170 projects over its five years of operation. A large part of the funding has been directed to projects that undertake weed clearance and new plantings for the improvement health and wellbeing of the Waikato River.