Nick Smith - Asshole of the Week Award | The Jackal

28 Apr 2011

Nick Smith - Asshole of the Week Award

On the 28th April 1995, 14 young people lost their lives and another four were injured, some very seriously. The disaster occurred at Cave Creek in Paparoa National Park and will forever mark the 28th April a sad day to remember. A party of students from the Outdoor Recreation course at Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth and the Department of Conservation's Punakaiki Field Centre Manager went onto what appeared to be a safe viewing platform high above Cave Creek.

The platform subsequently collapsed and fell about 30 metres into the resurgence below. It was constructed in April 1994 by Department of Conservation workers and because of faults in its construction, tipped off its base and fell onto the boulders and rocks of the creek-bed below, taking the victims with it.

A Commission of Inquiry into the accident, headed by District Judge Graeme Noble, highlighted a number of serious concerns with the Department of Conservation's construction of the platform. Specific concerns that were raised included:

The platform had not been designed or approved by a qualified engineer.

None of the people involved in building the platform were qualified engineers.

Nails were used to secure the platform instead of bolts (as intended by the design), because an appropriate drill had not been taken to the building site.

The steps to the platform, which were supposed to be attached as a counterweight, had not been properly attached.

A warning sign for the platform, indicating the maximum limit of people, had been ordered but was never installed at the site.

Besides the specific flaws in the actual platform and methods of its construction, the Commission said the "root causes" of the collapse were systemic problems in the Department as a whole, saying that the Department was seriously under-funded and under-resourced. The Commission found that the Department had not been given sufficient resources to meet its requirements without "cutting corners", and was frequently forced to accept poor quality standards due to its lack of funding. The report of the Commission concluded that given the department's state, "a tragedy such as Cave Creek was almost bound to happen".

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger initially attacked the report produced by the Commission of Inquiry, arguing that the platform failed "essentially because it lacked about $20 worth of bolts to hold it together". The then Minister of Conservation, Denis Marshall, was criticised in the media for his management of the Department. Many people blamed Marshall, although there was also wide criticism of the whole government's policies on management of the conservation estate. Marshall eventually resigned in May 1996, just over a year after the accident occurred.

We have National to thank for all those cuts to funding that led to such a disaster. The mismanagement thereafter by Nick Smith and other similar occurrences have resulted in many people calling for his resignation.

We can expect similar mismanagement of the Dr Peter Jansen inquiry launched after Dr Jansen implemented a legal claim for $250,000 against an ACC claimant. The lady known as Jax blogged about ill treatment by Dr Jansen and ACC. Nick Smith stated that: "Dr Jansen never wanted money from the person" and "I spoke with Dr Jansen, he noted that the material had subsequently been taken down from the web, he has said that he will be withdrawing the legal action." This was of course untrue, with both the information and legal action still in place.

Nick Smith also outraged Victim Support Services when he suggested that the terminally ill should take advantage of the current ACC rules by throwing themselves under a train. People like Nick Smith should not be in parliament.

I wonder if Dr Smith remembers this date in history, I bet the families of the victim's from the Cave Creek disaster do... That’s why Nick Smith is this week’s Asshole Award recipient. Hurrah!