The Board of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has welcomed the findings – and unreservedly accepted all recommendations – made by Kristy McDonald QC in her Report entitled “Independent Inquiry into NZTA’s Performance in Relation to Dargaville Diesel Specialists (DDS)” (“the Report”) which has been publicly released today.
The independent inquiry was commissioned in response to concerns regarding NZTA’s regulatory compliance enforcement practices relating to DDS, an Inspecting Organisation (IO) issuing warrants of fitness. DDS issued a warrant of fitness on 15 December 2017 to a vehicle that was subsequently involved in a fatal crash on 6 January 2018. Mr William Ball was a passenger in that vehicle when it crossed the centre line and crashed into a ditch. Mr Ball’s seatbelt failed, he hit the windscreen and died as a result of his injuries some weeks later.
Ms McDonald QC found that in its dealings with DDS, NZTA had failed to prioritise public safety, noting that the case was an example “… of wider systemic failures within NZTA’s regulatory function that have existed for some time and that must be addressed as a priority.”
In releasing the Report, NZTA Board Chairman, Michael Stiassny said that the findings confirmed the Board’s grave concerns regarding the efficacy of NZTA’s regulatory approach.
“Regrettably, Ms McDonald’s findings have come as no surprise, but they do clearly illustrate the issues with all component parts of the regulatory system and direct us on appropriate remedial actions. I am deeply saddened that Mr Ball tragically lost his life when the Transport Agency’s regulatory function was not focused on public safety.
“Ms McDonald’s recommendations are welcomed and accepted in full by the Board,” says Mr Stiassny.
Of the 25 recommendations summarised in part two of the Report, ten have already been implemented or partially implemented since NZTA announced its review into regulatory compliance in October 2018. Other recommendations will be at the heart of the future state of the Agency’s regulatory function.
“New Zealanders will be aware that as a result of the Board’s review, there has been a large number of enforcement actions in recent months, so improvement is not coming from a standing start.
“However, there is much more to be done and the Board and management team are committed to prioritising public safety through strong regulatory enforcement. Where necessary, we will work with Ministry of Transport to ensure that any required regulatory reform is undertaken and resources made available.
“I also want to assure regulated stakeholders that as we work to reform our regulatory regime we will be talking to their representative organisations to get their input.”
While the Report does not specifically address issues of accountability, it does provide clear examples of systems, processes and actions that were significantly lacking. It also notes that front line staff acted in accordance with instructions from their superiors and management. Ms McDonald’s independent inquiry report has also been presented to MoT to input into the Transport Agency’s regulatory performance review, commissioned by Transport Minister Hon Phil Twyford.
“As promised in October when we launched this review, now that the Report is complete the Board is looking more closely at the question of accountability. There have already been significant changes at the Agency. A regulatory specialist group has recently been established with a General Manager soon to be appointed. Our focus remains on ensuring that the lessons we continue to learn with regard to governance, leadership, accountability and culture are applied as the regulatory function is reshaped,” says Mr Stiassny.
Background information on the NZTA regulatory compliance review can be found here: www.nzta.govt.nz/regulatory-compliance-review