Waitakere City Council in the gun

Stuff reports:

As the family of prepare for her funeral, could face prosecution over her death. …

Neighbours of the home from which Aisling wandered away said yesterday that they had repeatedly warned the council about problems with the drain and a manhole cover that Aisling probably crawled through, saying it blew off under the increased water pressure when it rained.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey began an inquiry yesterday into those allegations, while a spokesman confirmed that the council had received four complaints about the manhole cover since 2004, the latest on September 11 and September 25.

It is difficult to explain why nothing was done, despite four formal complaints. This is bread and butter stuff for Councils.

Tim Rainey, a lawyer who specialises in construction negligence, said it was “very much a live possibility” that the council could be prosecuted under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

“If they were aware of a risk which could harm somebody then they would have been obliged to take all practicable steps to ensure that risk was either eliminated or minimised.”

The only problem with a prosecution is that innocent ratepayers will have to pay any fine, not those responsible.

Council staff visited the Longburn Rd property and inspected the drain on September 16 – five days after the first complaint.

They found it was blocked by tree roots, and were discussing with the property owner who would pay to clear the blockage.

“We were in the process of deciding how best to remove those when the tragedy occurred,” council spokesman Wally Thomas said.

“There was a matter of days between us receiving the last complaint and acting on it, and before we could clear the problem this tragedy occurred.”

However the complaints go back to before September the 11th it seems. What is the time gap between the first complaint, not the last complaint?

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