SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Matthew Blomfield – The police want to take every dollar Ron Salter has ever made

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A South Auckland businessman is under siege by police who are using laws designed to target gangs and drug dealers to come after his family business, his home, and even his children’s assets. At a time when we’ve handed police extraordinary powers to deal with a health pandemic, Matt Blomfield argues that trust is being betrayed.

Over the last five years I have carved out a role for myself as a person you turn to when things go bad. And when I say bad I have seen some pretty spectacular f*ck ups. When you are in the business of fixing life’s little mistakes, you find that your work comes from all walks of life and try as I might I like to think I don’t discriminate when it comes to my clients. 

During that time, I have worked for some amazing people and also some infamous individuals. Often the balance between what is morally correct and my own personal view that everyone deserves help is something I struggle with. 

When I discuss it with friends and family, I often reference the obligations that lawyers have when representing a client. Everyone has a right to justice and should have an opportunity to have their side of the story heard. 

The slight difference is that I like to  think that my role includes an added bonus in that I can attempt to get things back on track and show my clients that life is just that little bit simpler if you play by the rules and remove some of the complication that comes with pushing boundaries.

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In saying that sometimes I have clients where a clear cut injustice has occurred, and there is zero moral ambiguity. Where bad luck has combined with an extraordinary set of circumstances to result in an unjust outcome. These are the ones I enjoy the most. 

So with the blessing of my client I would like to ask you to listen to a story not about Covid-19, but about an unfortunate sequence of events which has left my client fighting for their very survival.

In late 2015 I was introduced to Ron Salter who is the owner and founder of Salters Cartage, a South Auckland waste collection and recycling company. 

A few months earlier, on September 15, 2015, Jamey Lee Bowring, an employee of a contractor to Salters Cartage, called Raceworks, working at the Salters Cartage business, was killed after the 100,000-litre fuel tank he was welding exploded.

It was a tragedy, a young man losing his life at just 24 years old. There were no winners in this story. I recall thinking about Jamie’s mother and how she would have reacted when she got the news. I have two daughters and in my mind I’m not sure if I could think of a worse situation than me outliving one of them.

Like all of the cases I work on, the first thing I try to do is understand the client. What am I dealing with and what is really going on here? 

Ron Salter is by trade a truck driver, who over several decades built up a very successful business. He is a hard man and initially that was all I saw. It wasn’t until I had spent a couple of months working with Ron that I actually found out who he is.

Ron is first and foremost a family man, and Salters Cartage is a family business.  The kind of business that is the backbone of New Zealand’s economy.  

The more time I spent with the Salter family the more I came to understand that this was the quintessential Kiwi family running their own business and Ron was that hard arse dad who secretly was a big softy and loved his family unconditionally. 

Just prior to lockdown I noticed a picture of Ron on his daughter’s Facebook page. He was in the swimming pool with his granddaughter. His daughter commented: “As a kid growing up I don’t remember my dad getting in the pool/water but little miss says “pop pop come in water” and he’s in”. 

That side of Ron is why, at the earliest opportunity, he said sorry for the accident and accepted he made a mistake. This was something Ron insisted on.  

Just over two years on from Jamie’s death, on November 23, 2017, Ron was sentenced to four and a half months’ home detention and he and his company were ordered to pay nearly $400,000 in fines and reparations, which they did. 

The same day a story was published in the New Zealand Herald entitled “Auckland business owner sentenced for fuel tank explosion which killed worker. The story includes a video interview of Ron which captures the man I know and the hurt that he and his family went through. 

That’s not to say what happened to the Salter family could ever compete with losing a child. Jamie’s mother Sarah Ferguson has said she does not accept Ron’s remorse and I don’t think I could if I was her.

My role with Salters Cartage finished up in early 2018. It was an interesting project, it touched on so many aspects of life, a mother losing a child, a business owner dealing with the guilt and responsibility for the part they played, the all-encompassing litigation process, something that I understand all too well, the toll that can take on individuals, and the support of wider friends and family unit that rallied around during this awful time. There were no winners in this story, but it was finally over. Justice was done.

Moving forward, I would check in with Ron and the family on occasion. They had a job to get on with and didn’t need my help. They were rebuilding their lives and getting their Salters Cartage family back on track. I heard through a mutual acquaintance that Ron was looking at selling the business and retiring and I recall thinking that it was not surprising. Ron had done it hard over the past few years.

Then in December last year I heard that the police had restrained all of Ron’s assets under the proceeds of crime legislation. 

At the time I had limited knowledge of proceeds of crime laws and my immediate reaction was ‘what have I missed’? My mind conjured up images of drug dealing and gangs. It just made no sense. 

After further clarification I realised that it was in relation to the same health and safety prosecution in which Ron and Salters Cartage had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.  Having already secured a criminal conviction, the police had decided to take the extraordinary step of pursuing a business owner through the civil courts for the alleged “proceeds” of a health and safety offence. 

I called Ron and he explained in a slightly panicked fashion, “they are wanting to take my house, my daughter’s house, the bach, the business, everything”. His life’s work and his legacy. I was lost for words. It just didn’t make any sense to me. 

I recall thinking about double jeopardy – the principle that a person should not be subject to two prosecutions or punishments for the same offence. And then wondering whether a claim to forfeit assets constitutes a second punishment or a severely harsh punishment when viewed together with the original sentence. 

It was a major, the Salter family stood to lose a lifetime of effort. This was not just Ron’s business, it’s the Salter family business which includes the families of their 30 employees, who are essentially an extension of the family.

Police have sought restraints over more than $8 million of the Salters’ personal assets as well as business assets over and above this.  An application to forfeit those same assets will inevitably follow. 

To be clear, this legislation was brought in to go after drug dealers, gang members, money launderers and other sophisticated criminal enterprises that break the law for commercial gain. It operates on a simple philosophy: the police say ‘we think you’ve obtained this by nefarious means, prove us wrong’. 

The reach of the legislation extends to anything that the police believe is “tainted”. The example I use is if a drug dealer owns a house and pays for a new roof with drug money, the police can take the house. The police can also take untainted assets to the value of the benefit they say you have received as a result of criminal activity.  It’s hard for me to draw a parallel between a gang member selling methamphetamine and Salters Cartage collecting and recycling waste oil.   As bizarre as it sounds, the police are saying the income that Salters Cartage received is like drug money. If it is, so too is the income of the hundreds of businesses convicted of health and safety offences in New Zealand every year, let alone other regulatory offences.  What’s next – resource management breaches?   

In the five years to July 2014, police restrained nearly half a billion dollars worth of cash, property, cars, boats, motorcycles with gold-plate rims and every other trapping of a drug dealer’s lifestyle you can imagine. Police estimated half of that came from methamphetamine. 

The recovered money goes into a contestable fund that has provided millions to drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, mental health services and crime reduction initiatives. Proper Robin Hood stuff. 

However, in the Salters Cartage case the police are using the proceeds of crime legislation for the first time in the aftermath of a health and safety case.

In an exit interview with the Herald just a few weeks ago, the former commissioner of police Mike Bush summed up one of the key tenets of his six year tenure as follows: “How we apply our discretion is critical to building trust and confidence.”

“The one thing people look for is the consistent application. And that’s what we’ve been driving hard.”

If that’s the case, why didn’t the police attempt to seize Watercare’s assets, after the 2011 explosion that killed one of its workers and left another a double amputee? Or Canadian Piping, the firm convicted of failing to protect employees in the same blast. Should the directors of Watercare have feared that their family homes were at risk?

There have been around 700 workplace deaths in New Zealand since 2011, and more than two dozen firms have been prosecuted for breaching the health and safety legislation where death occurred.

Where is the consistent application of the law that Bush is so proud of?

It is no secret that New Zealand’s small to medium enterprises are the backbone of this country. Right now, as we emerge from Level 4 lockdown, they are at once under unprecedented strain while being needed more than ever to jumpstart our post-COVID 19 economy.  

According to one Government estimate, they make up 97 per cent of all New Zealand businesses, employ more than 630,000 people or 29 per cent of all New Zealand workers. 

It’s tough enough running your own business, as a business owner you take responsibility for the livelihoods of all of your staff, you take responsibility for the risks that come with owning your business from loans to compliance to tax. 

If it goes badly you can’t just walk away. These business owners are brave and they should be respected, they should be looked after, and they should be supported.  Without them, the economic landscape in New Zealand would be very different.  

We spend plenty of time making sure that employees are looked after and that they have the support of their employers.  And rightly so.  But less time is spent thinking about the brave directors that take on the responsibilities and risks that create employment. I can imagine that many will say that with risk comes reward and I accept that but, in this case, we are talking about a family that could lose everything they have earned in the past 38 years.  There are many, many other businesses out there just like Salters Cartage.  

This will have an effect on three generations of this family. Putting aside the inevitable closure of Salters Cartage as we know it if the police are successful, we are talking about Ron and his wife Natalie’s daughter’s home, the family bach, the home in which Ron and Natalie planned to live out their retirement, and finally the livelihoods of all of the staff and their families.

So, most of my lockdown was spent trying to find a way through for the Salter family. That now includes dealing with Covid-19 and the fact they have all but closed the doors over the lockdown.  They have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars but, unlike many other businesses, all of their staff still have their jobs.  

The Salter family is doing it hard.  Ron and his family accepted responsibility for what happened;  Ron and Salters Cartage performed the sentence imposed.  In addition to funding this litigation, which will could take years to resolve, now they have the added complication of Covid-19.  In my mind it’s just not fair. I really wish the police would use their resources, budget and energy to take down gangs and drug dealers because isn’t that what the proceeds of crime legislation was intended for? I can’t rationalise in my mind why the police have put the Salters family, and family businesses just like theirs, at the top of their to-do list, while many who have clearly profited from crime flaunt their wealth on Instagram. It just does not make sense!

Salters Cartage is truly a family owned and operated New Zealand business. It is an example of what makes New Zealand great and what we need to focus on to get through this Covid-19 debacle. I am confident that the police will be unsuccessful in their case but my hope is that the fight doesn’t destroy this amazing family and the New Zealand-owned family business that was almost 40 years in the making. That’s not justice and not what New Zealand wants or deserves from the New Zealand police. 

Matt Blomfield is a business consultant and the subject of Whale Oil, a book about standing up to bullies and his quest for justice. It was nominated in the best general non-fiction category at the 2020 Ockham Awards.

 

 

51 COMMENTS

  1. That is just wrong! The man has received a sentence for his role.

    The family assets were not obtained illegally aka the crimes act is supposed to seize drugs and fraudulently obtained money. They are picking on him because he is an easy target and obviously not paying the council and work safe to be in their pockets.

    When a large overseas (Chinese owned) company like Waste management truck kills a small child on their own driveway, Worksafe don’t even interview the driver and seemingly have no issues with the driver or company in their reports, which subsequently helps the driver and company get off any liability with police later.

    Investigation ‘substandard’
    http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/local-news/20190517/investigation-substandard/

    Recycling truck tragedy
    http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/local-news/20190516/recycling-truck-tragedy/

    NZ justice is increasingly big companies can kill local people and given the benefit of the doubt with botched quick investigations , while smaller companies are put through the mill!

    In our biggest workplace disasters, Pike River and CTV building – the corporations get off too! Surprise, surprise.

    Where are the investigators? Told to go after easy small targets in witch hunts because complex or large cases seem to be too much effort.

    • prima facie (on the face of it), this has to be politically motivated OR the spooks are after him for some unknow reason.
      NOTHING else makes sense.
      Occams razor.

  2. In a sense the police probably need to test the law. If it is written in terms that can be construed to encompass this situation then it is the legislation that is at fault. That might not get fixed or clarified until it comes up in court.
    D J S

    • If so, why not test the case against something like ‘Pike River’?
      Seems too convenient of an answer to go after ‘the small guy’.

      • I totally agree But what would it cost the state in legal fees on both sides of the litigation?
        With the ACC arrangement that replaced the state responsibility to see that a workplace was safe the objective was shifted from keeping everyone safe to identifying who should pay (the state not the victim or dependents ). So now people dying or getting maimed like this has become a revenue gathering exercise for the state. The more people get killed the more money the state collects.
        D J S

    • David Stone: “If it is written in terms that can be construed to encompass this situation…”

      I’ve looked at the Act. As far as I can see, it is not.

      The intersection – such as it is – appears to be only in the fact that a) Salter has a criminal conviction under the Health and Safety Act and b) the maximum term of imprisonment under said Act is 5 years. Which is – surprise surprise – the length of term which will trigger police action under the Proceeds of Crime Act, I believe.

      In my view, the police are flying a kite here. And the trouble with that is that it’s very expensive for the Salter family to challenge, if it goes to court.

      “That might not get fixed or clarified until it comes up in court.”

      It ought not to be the case that any part of the judiciary – or the legal system generally – can say airily to somebody, “Go to court to prove us wrong.” To do so bespeaks a callous disregard for how horrendously expensive that can be. And – a fortiori – it smacks of the sort of official bullying that we’re expected to believe is a fact of life in non-democratic, authoritarian countries, but not here.

      I patched this story through to a relative. The response: “I see our plods have been taking lessons from their American colleagues”. Indeed. And difficult to disagree, when there are news items such as this:

      https://www.rt.com/usa/487470-strzok-fbi-flynn-evidence/

      “Documents revealed on Wednesday show correspondence between Strzok, Page and another FBI official, Bill Priestap, about Flynn – along with a handwritten note suggesting that the goal of the interview may have been “to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
      Thursday’s release contains emails from Strzok to Priestap about a pretext of a “defensive briefing” to Flynn, and a response from someone (whose name is redacted) to Strzok and Page, saying “I think [redacted] would get to him regardless so we should try to frame them in a way we want.””

      From what I’ve heard and seen, I suspect that the NZ police has lost the trust of the middle classes. Stories such as that of the Salters will do nothing to win it back.

      I note that this case was pursued under the aegis of Mike Bush. Now that he’s gone, maybe the new police commissioner will call a halt to it. It is to be hoped so.

  3. No one wants to hear how someone is claiming the grease pole because we’re all climbing it.

    You have to make a box and clamp it to the inside of the petrol tank. If you can’t clamp it then wedge it in tight with a pole. Then drill a pilot hole with water to suppress the sparks and vent the inside of your box. Fossil fuels evaporate pretty fast so vent that fucker. Congrats you’ve now made your work site safe and can begin your work.

  4. Our Environmental Centre has for many years sought for hazardous waste such as “waste” (which is a wide ranging word for anything) should be carried under the rules set by the “Hazardous substance Act” which says by the safest method possible, and we advocated that waste be retrurned to being carried by rail as was previously daone so before the de-regulation of transport in 1980’s.
    https://www.chemsafetypro.com/Topics/NZ/HSNO_Act_Hazardous_Substances_and_New_Organisms_Act.html
    QUOTE;New Zealand HSNO Act

    Little Pro on 2016-01-05Views: 8446 Update:2019-11-16

    New Zealand’s Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, known as HSNO Act, came into force for new organisms on 29 July 1998 and for hazardous substances on 2 July 2001. The HSNO manages the risks that hazardous substances and new organisms may pose to human health and the environment in New Zealand.

    Under the HSNO Act, anybody intending to introduce a hazardous substance or new organism that is not already legally present in New Zealand must apply to the Environmental Risk Management Authority for approval to do so. All users of hazardous substances and new organisms must comply with the controls that are imposed by the Authority on approvals.

    Definition of Hazardous Substances and Exemptions
    Under the HSNO Act, hazardous substances include any substances that can damage the environment or adversely affect human health and safety other than radioactive, ozone-depleting or infectious substances. The following substances are exempt from the HSNO Act:

    Hazardous substances that are only being used in an exempt laboratory;
    Medicine;
    Infectious substances, UN Class 6;
    Ozone-depleting substances;
    Food;
    Manufactured articles;
    It shall be noted that the term “hazardous substances” under the Act is unique in the world. It covers both single-component chemical substances and formulated products. New Zealand’s chemical approval system is also quite different from other countries. A new single-component chemical substance that is not hazardous does not require approval.

    Approval of Hazardous Substances
    There are two types of approvals for hazardous substances manufactured in or imported into New Zealand: individual substance approval and group standard approval. Which type of approval is applicable depends whether a product is a single-component chemical and whether it contains hazardous components.

    Individual substance approval
    Mainly for a new hazardous chemical component that is not listed on New Zealand Inventory of Chemicals (NZIoC) and pesticides;
    An approval from the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) is required;
    Group standard approval
    For other formulated products and hazardous single-component chemicals;
    Manufacturers and importers shall carry out their own assessment and assign group standards to their products and comply with control requirements specified by group standards;
    A record of assignment needs to be kept;
    New Zealand Inventory of Chemicals (NZIoC)
    The NZIoC is a list of hazardous chemicals allowed as components in products covered under group standard approvals. If a single-component chemical on its own or contained in a formulated product is hazardous and it is not listed on NZIoC, a new chemical notification needs to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for the hazardous component. This process is also called individual substance approval.

    Read more about NZIoC…

    Group Standard Approval
    Group standards are approvals for a group of hazardous substances of a similar nature, type or use. A group standard sets out conditions that enable a group of hazardous substances to be managed safely. Such conditions include specific requirements on labelling, SDS, and packaging etc.

    Most domestic and workplace chemicals (except for pesticides, veterinary medicines, timber treatment chemicals and vertebrate toxic agents) are approved under group standards. Most of group standards require hazardous components listed on NZIoC.

    Manufacturers and importers carry out their own assessment and assign their product to certain group standards based on the hazards and intended uses of the products. Once a group standard has been found, they need to keep a record why a particular group standard has been assigned.

    A guide on how to assign a group standard to a product can be found here. If companies cannot find an appropriate group standard, they can contact EPA for help by making an informal ‘Status of Substance’ request. A small fee will be charged by EPA.

    Reform of HSNO Act
    HSNO Act is being amended by a bill called “Health and Safety Reform Bill” in New Zealand. The Bill proposes replacing many of the regulation-making powers in the HSNO Act with powers to make legally binding notices issued by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA Notices). EPA Notices will align their national regulation with GHS Rev. 3.

    GHS in New Zealand
    New Zealand is one of the earliest countries that have adopted GHS. New Zealand had adopted a GHS based hazard classification framework in 2001 and had been working on an implementation program since that time. Since July 2006, all hazardous substances had been covered by this GHS-based legislative framework.

    • Cleangreen: it isn’t clear to me what relevance this comment of yours has to the original post. I assume that you’re not suggesting that the Salters were doing anything illegal.

    • Carrying hazardous waste on the rail always requires loading on a truck, carting to a railhead , off loading onto the train, transport as close as possible to nearest disposal site , loading back on a truck, and then cartage to final sight and offloading again. The multiple times of handling always compromises the cost efficiency of rail , but in the case of hazardous waste it multiplies the risk of accident as well. Not sure that this is the answer Cleangreen.
      D J S

  5. This is really bad. The police are, I consider, manipulating their powers to the extent of one case, and probably more, of deceit in their dealings. They are a Force unto themselves!

    This business was a legitimate business, and while doing its legitimate business it allowed some dangerous methods to be used. We use highly dangerous things all the time, our society is highly developed in its use of materials and energy, and have to understand their potentialities. Business often doesn’t want to be properly responsible though. We have seen that with the cladding that causes a fire storm on the outside of a building in London, and we have found that it has been used on buildings here. The authorities are trying to find ways of getting it off I think. It should never have been put up. Asbestos also, I bet a lot was known about its bad health propensities when it was being hailed as a marvellous material and installed enthusiastically.

    So business has to be held to account, should make amends and all other businesses be warned about the faulty actions and that they will be dealt to, to prevent recurrence. Fair enough. This police action is wrong, it recriminalises and is against the intention of the law.

    One could go into the sociology of it – musing on the difference in understanding of life between people who are mostly observers of business with no knowledge of actually running one and the practicalities involved, and who are basically bureaucrats with extraordinary powers. They can do virtually what they like under the political system of devolving power to agencies, setting targets but leaving implementation in the hands of people who can get called ‘czars’* (in the USA and UK) – remember a number of questioned NZ politicians denying culpability for something saying “Oh no, that’s an organisational matter”. Then there are deemed regulations,
    now apparently called, blandly, ‘Other Instruments’, which is no description, gives them no ‘face’ at all.
    http://www.pco.govt.nz/regulationsreview#deemedregulations (1999). The police have been given wide power of discretion as to when and how to deal with people, and have very few powers held over them to control over-zealousness on their part.
    * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czar_(political_term)

    Personally I was highly alarmed and affronted, when they set up a road block in pursuance of elderly, mostly women, who had attended a meeting on euthanasia which would have discussed the use of various chemicals that can be used for medical purposes, in this case resulting in death by choice. They took personal information in the course of their surveillance and then visited the people at their homes to search if necessary, for any of the chemicals which are illegal for individual possession. As the police have discretion, I felt this was over-zealous.

    • Greywarbler “Personally I was highly alarmed and affronted, when they set up a road block in pursuance of elderly, mostly women, who had attended a meeting on euthanasia.”

      Correction. The police set up an illegal road block, and they admitted it. It specifically target members of Exit. The operation was apparently spear-headed by a Catholic cop, who one can assume was opposed to euthanasia.

      Exit, and what was VES, are a jolly bunch, possibly with a reasonable number of members of northern hemisphere extraction e.g. from the Netherlands, where euthanasia is not illegal.

      A more offensive aspect of this operation, was the assumption that the euthanasia supporters were suicidal, and the cops and copettes who did the follow up home visits, treated quite charming sophisticated retirees as potential suicides. Catholics like Bill English equating euthanasia with suicide, and saying it encouraged youth suicide, and petals like Maggie B describing it as a license to kill, effectively gave retrospective endorsement to the police action.

      The irony here, is that the deliberate under-funding and running down of the public health system by Bill and Maggie’s National govt, is why many of us who have tended the dead and dying, want control over our own end times.

      The bottom line for the police was the issue of people importing/acquiring illegal substances, but they seem incapable of distinguishing between euthanasia and suicide.

      A better use of their funding could be restoring community constables and engaging with the at-risk young. One former community constable in Naenae is still talked about for single-handedly clearing up what was a youth crime hot spot.

      • Snow White I don”t know what your correction was about – I think what I said was perfectly true. If you want to add something to anything I say do that for sure in your own comment. I don’t need your judgments on the exact phrasing of what I say. You put your points and leave mine alone. I dislike nit pickers.

        • Sorry Greywarbler – Perhaps I should have spelt things out in much greater detail.

          My correction referred to your statement that the police “set up a road block,” and then proceeded to act upon it.

          In fact the police set up “an illegal road block,” and then proceeded to act on it.

          I’ve not made judgment of you, or of the police, except insofar as to suggest that their funding could be better utilised.

          But I do think that there is a difference between a bona fide road block, and an illegal road block, and that the police probably should not have used an illegal road block.

          I say probably, because I am not privy to what information the police acting upon. My understanding is that that particular Sunday afternoon exercise, was prompted by the coroner’s comments at the inquest of a Wellington lady who had chosen to sign out. The source of the drug which she used, appears to have been a concern to the coroner, and to the police.

          Given the unknowns, it may have been reasonable to have an illegal road block, but I don’t think that they should have, even though, at that stage of their investigation they may not have known whether the drug source was a hardened nefarious criminal organisation, or ‘ elderly mostly women.’

          If I am nit-picking noting that the police set up an illegal road block, so be it.

    • The police are on a roll. They are in the box seat and I await with interest the actions that will be visited upon innocent, honest kiwis.

  6. Matthew,

    I think there is some relevant information missing from your piece.

    Jamey was only 24 when he died. If he’d worked for a further 40 years and earned a minimum of 50k each year, he would’ve earnt $2 million. He could well have earned much than that (a salary or wage of 50k in 40 years’ time seems low). His family was paid $128,000. Do you think that sum was fair in the circumstances?

    Did Ron Salter offer to pay the Bowring family additional compensation following the conclusion of the original court proceedings?

    Has Bowring’s family sought compensation from Ron Salter? If so, what was his response?

    If the police seize Salter’s assets, will Bowring’s family be able to make a claim on them?

    • Well, how about..
      Was Jamey a qualified welder with experience enough to work on fuel tanks? I would say not as there are quite simple precautions you take before conducting such work.
      Was he asked to do the job or volunteered himself?

      Easy laying blame…

      • Where does the contractor who directly employed Jamey come into this? It would seem the contractor was responsible for Jamey’s safety rather than Salter anyway. I expect they went after Slater in the first instance because he had assets that could be confiscated rather than that he was responsible for the so called “accident” which can hardly qualify for the term if precautions were not taken. fuel burns explosively, that’s what it’s for.
        Any aspiring small employer needs to think about this. It is probably a stupid idea to get involved in employing anyone in an industry where such accidents are possible. The likelyhood of ruin at some point in a lifetime of work any physical workplace is probably greater than 50%. Much better to let someone else stick their neck out , the rewards aren’t there to compensate.
        D J S

    • Yet to see the police seizing assets to give to their victims from Ports of Auckland and Talleys when their workplace kills people…

      What is also disgusting is that worksafe fines go to work safe itself, not the victims families! Worksafe gets more than the family reparation. It’s just so wrong. I wish we lived in a fairer county that seems to be getting worse and worse with corruption and influence on justice.

      Worksafe gets $330,750
      Family gets reparation of $110,000
      (Shouldn’t it be the other way around!)
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/119589859/auckland-company-guru-nz-fined-330000-after-worker-fatally-crushed

      Alliance Group fined $331,875
      The worker gets $30k
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/113290518/alliance-group-fined-330000-after-worker-loses-finger-tips-in-boning-machine?rm=a

      Others litigate to avoid responsibility
      Talley’s loses bid to get paralysis injury accident charge dismissed
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/111891669/talleys-loses-bid-to-get-paralysis-injury-accident-charge-dismissed
      In July last year Talley’s lost another appeal in a different case following an injury to another of its workers in 2017. In that case WorkSafe had issued it an improvement notice after a worker’s hand was seriously injured while cleaning a conveyor at its Motueka mussel processing plant.

      Also in July last year a boiler exploded at a Northland meat-processing plant, owned by Talley’s-owned Affco, leaving a man critically injured with burns to his chest and face.

      In 2016 Talley’s was ordered by the Nelson District Court to pay $21,000 to the family of a worker decapitated on one of its ships in 2014.

      The same year Affco was fined $30,000, and ordered to pay $25,000 to a worker impaled on a meat hook in 2014. The hook entered his ear, came out of his eye, trapping him on the hook for 30 minutes.

      In 2015, Talley’s was convicted under the Health and Safety in Employment Act following the death of a worker who fell through an insecure open hatch on one of its tuna boats in 2012.”

      Where were police when the government voted not to give the Pike River families their reparation!

      “Prime Minister John Key says families of Pike River victims will have to take the Government to court in order to win compensation from the Crown.

      This week Key confirmed that Attorney General Chris Finlayson had told Cabinet that it saw no legal recourse for the Crown to be liable for compensation which the courts ordered Pike River Coal to pay.

      Pike River Coal is in receivership, and New Zealand Oil & Gas, the company’s founder and cornerstone shareholder, voted not to pay the compensation.”

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/west-coast/9399690/PM-avoiding-Pike-River-payout

      • “Yet to see the police seizing assets to give to their victims from Ports of Auckland and Talleys when their workplace kills people…

        Yes the police are selective on who they target.

        It seems the law applies only too certain people and shows how corporates view their workforce and innocent people as expendable.

        Pike was one of the most appalling examples with weak law that does not recognise human life lost due too negligence.

    • And if he’d totalled himself and his vehicle some wild Friday night he wouldn’t have earned much at all.
      And if he’d done his OE and been a beach bum…
      And what if and what about.
      The court made the ruling.

      Why is it all about the money for you?

      • I think the point is that for this government and the Treasury economists and the wealthy cohort who back the gummint, it is all about money. Neo lib economic thinking that we are getting in spades, and have for decades, measures everything in money and efficiency. And when you look at the way things work out for the ordinary person, if there is money offered, it is never on a business-like basis. Business and leaders get big money, and can justify it, the everyday person gets little money and budget advisors say that isn’t justified because people can’t live an ordinary life on that money.
        Savenz is showing us the contrast between the rhetoric and what goes to the top percentiles, and the rationalisation of why the bottom gets the scraping off the bottom.

      • Why is it all about the money for you?

        Well, if money isn’t a problem, why doesn’t the company meet with the victim’s family and listen to them? Maybe they can negotiate a fair settlement which potentially would put an end to police action.

    • Ross: “If the police seize Salter’s assets, will Bowring’s family be able to make a claim on them?”

      Nope. I looked at information on the Proceeds of Crime Fund. Here is the link:

      https://www.justice.govt.nz/justice-sector-policy/about-the-justice-sector/proceeds-of-crime-fund/

      It’s reasonable for the public to believe otherwise, but that link says not.

      “It is a contestable fund for initiatives that meet criteria set by Cabinet.

      The criteria set by Cabinet in March 2019 are:

      • Expansion of alcohol and other drug treatment services;
      • Initiatives to fight organised criminal groups dealing in methamphetamine and other drugs;
      • Initiatives to address mental health issues within the criminal justice system;
      • Initiatives that address crime-related harm to communities and improve community wellbeing.”

      Well, THAT’S all right then, isn’t it!

    • What does that have to do with anything? Can you imagine if national was in during this crisis? Our borders wouldn’t have been closed because of what is would do to the economy because everyone knows national always puts money ahead of people. Bridges is basically in China’s pocket and wouldn’t have closed our border to China if he had his way. Anyway what the Police are trying to do to Salter is not right, I just hope they don’t win as it wouldn’t bode well for any NZ based business owner (small or otherwise)

  7. This is the problem when Governments get into the business of designing laws to target specific groups – ultimately our ‘peers’ get caught in the web. It is all very well to accept that the Police have discretion but in theory, that should not be acceptable in a fair and just society. Obviously, the Proceeds of Crime legislation creates a situation where the enforcement agency plays prosecutor, judge and jury. If their ‘determinations’ are challenged, the Police can use the State’s deep pockets to virtually ensure that for those caught in the web, usually stand to lose everything, including lawful acquisitions that have been inherited from previous generations. One has to wonder what would happen if similar laws were enacted to deal with, say, commercial profiteering, tax evasion or offshore banking.

  8. This is massive overreach by the police and Crown Prosecution and it goes to prove a point.

    This is exactly why I said we should be alarmed when this government pushed for the confiscation of legal firearms justified by one act of terrorism by a foreigner. This enabled the cops excessive powers to search and arrest. A year later the government has handed the police emergency power to do basically whatever they like because of a virus.

    I have to say – this government is looking awfully authoritarian, so what’s next?

    Hate speech laws (tick)
    Compulsory purchase of property (tick)
    Overrule of the RMA and local government zoning by central government (tick)

    • You are right Andrew our civil liberties are being taken away and there is too much power to police to revenue gather, now they don’t have to even be fit to enter police training and apparently 20% can’t even pass their fitness test on the job.

      I guess making easy money for police is more important than stopping criminals who are taking over our country – from Tarrent coming to train to be a terrorist for 3 years undetected to this guy, somehow a NZ citizen via 2 weeks in NZ as a baby, lived all life in Hong Kong, came back as an adult to commit frauds in NZ. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/121302846/colour-drained-from-real-estate-agents-face-as-he-realised-hed-been-defrauded-of-120k-in-sim-hijacking-scam

      • As Granny Weatherwax would say – we need to apply headology ie think things out in a different way.
        Headology bears some similarities to psychology in that it requires the user to hold a deep seated understanding of the workings of the human mind in order to be used successfully. However, headology tends to differ from psychology in that it usually involves approaching a problem from an entirely different angle.

        It has been said that the difference between headology and psychiatry is that, were you to approach either with a belief that you were being chased by a monster, a psychiatrist will convince you that there are no monsters coming after you, whereas a headologist will hand you a large stick and a chair to stand on.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granny_Weatherwax#Headology

  9. Dont know if anyone has read or heard of George Orwell s novel 1984. It is all about government control over the population
    And the police is its tool for enforcement.
    If you can look it up on Google.

  10. Yes…. but.
    Are not the cops just being cops? Once cops are alerted to ‘wrong doing’ they must act. That, is a fact. Cops are not courts. They can’t be discretionary once they’re alerted to wrong doing’s being/been done even if no wrong doing’s done or even if a price’s been paid for that, as in this case from what I can tell.
    But don’t get me wrong. For potentially two reasons.
    Firstly, I’m sure Ron Salter’s a great guy. A hard worker and a fellow who loves and adores his Whanau etc, etc.
    The second reason why I’d ask for patience from you, dear reader, is that as far as the law’s concerned I know nothing about it so therefore I have no idea what I’m writing about.
    What I do know, however, is that the laws governing ‘health and safety’ are toxic control mechanisms of the now on-the-run swindle known as neoliberalism.
    Gone, are the days of common sense having long been replaced by flashing orange lights, traffic cones and fluro vests. And lets not forget ACC and the insurance rackets.
    What I get from Ron Salters predicament is that the guy is the victim of shit happening. Shit does happen. That poor young guy doing that welding was just unlucky.
    Sure, we can argue that Jamey Lee Bowring didn’t comprehend the dangers posed by volatile gasses contained within a tank which was at risk of being ignited as he undertook his task.
    We can point the finger at his superiors for neglecting to tell him about the risks and make sure there were mitigating factors put in place to protect him but that didn’t happen, the tank blew up and killed Jamey Lee Bowring. Indeed, terrible shit happened.
    Therefore; everyone’s to blame… and no one’s to blame.
    My question would be: Who was the point of ignition that alerted the police to act against Ron Salter? Did the cops then say ” Oh for fucks sake… now we must push on with this…” It would be interesting to know who that first person was who ignited this latest action against Ron Salter. I’d be hugely surprised if the police did it on their own initiative.
    I’ll give you an example.
    Years ago, I knew a teenage boy who grew some Pot plants up the back of his mums house.
    The police came around one afternoon on an unrelated matter and found the plants.
    But instead of busting the kid, his mum and ransacking the house they instead pulled out the plants and gave them to a neighbours pet sheep next door.
    Three things happened.
    The cops put the fear of God up the kid for putting his mum at risk and said that he’d better hide them out of sight next time.
    Word got around that the cops were a decent couple of guys and life went on peacefully in that small town.
    The sheep stood passively gazing out to the views as she dreamily chewed her cud in the late summer sun.
    While on the subject of drugs…
    Decriminalise all recreational drugs. Rejig our absurd, constipated and calvinistic laws and make drugs a health issue and not a criminal justice issue and in so doing it’d remove the very profitable enterprise of dealing in illegal drugs, and in particular in Meth. Meth is, as I understand, very complex to manufacture so if it were freely available to anyone who was mad enough to use it then who’d bother going to all the trouble of cooking up the horrible stuff? ( Something stinks about all that, and it’s that, that requires closer investigation in my opinion. )
    Calvinism
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism
    And as an antidote to calvinism…

    Meet Alan Watts
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts

    Portugal.
    The Guardian.
    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radical-drugs-policy-is-working-why-hasnt-the-world-copied-it
    Getting back to the issue at hand, I’d say the problem lies not in the cops or the courts but in a toxic system made rank for it’s far too close a call with the polite mafia that is the cadre of swine who still infest our politic AKA neoliberalism.
    Cops and the fucker who dobbed him in?
    Leave Ron Salter alone. He’s suffered enough and causing him more suffering is sadistic.
    To qualify that comment.
    I heard a two guys get blown up once. One got killed instantly as the acetalyine cylinder he was about to take hold of blew up in his face. It was a larger model of cylinder at about 1.75 meters high and it blew up the instant it bumped onto the ground behind the truck it was being unloaded from. The truck driver was the guy we heard screaming like a howling animal. He died a few days later in hospital of his injuries.
    No one forgets that kind of thing. Ron Slater will never have true peace after what happened.
    Leave him alone.

    • countryboy You’re right.
      But in this case the firm has been before the Courts there have been orders made and complied with, made in a NZ court in a NZ way (ie don’t compare with what the USA would do). Justice has been done and seen to be done.

      The police are stepping into usurious and crafty behaviour by applying this drug and criminal-gang-aimed legislation to this firm. There is mention about Salter being a ‘hard man’ and I don’t know what that refers to. Maybe the police have decided they will get this guy by hook or by crook. I think it sounds really crook. The police are not entitled to try their hand at two bites of the cherry. Is this a project of an Inspector Javert (Les Miserables).

      So who can take steps to get the police’s hands off; get one hand from around his neck, and the other from around his wallet and his life. The Ombudsman? Who protects us from the unreasonable attentions of those in power with with fixed obsessions?

  11. Typical.
    Done the crime. Did the crime – and the punishment never stops.
    Oh. While you’re at it – get the family and the employees as well.
    Plus the people who do business with the company.
    Yep. Root and branch. Grub ’em out!
    I’m sure I’ve read stories like this about people in Russian gulags and North Korean prison camps.

    Can we make this (and many other infringements) part of the election year?
    What would Soimon do?
    And the Olive Greens?
    NZ First? The law and order crew…
    Within their first 100 days.

  12. How close do we lie, to totalitarianism in NZ?

    Martin Luther King quote.

    “If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”

    —“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, April 3, 1968

    Back to NZ

    We don’t have freedom of assembly anymore.
    We don’t have freedom of speech, with the new hate speech laws being proposed and the constant defamation cases in NZ aka Hagerman, Colin Craig, Bob Jones cases…
    We haven’t had a free press since 1984 if even then,
    and I guess now, our increasingly totalitarian state is out to find a way to take someones assets over an accident that was not his direct fault, while other more negligent but politically protected ‘accidents’ remain unpunished!

    Interesting all the commentators from different political divides seem to agree, this is a bad turn of events for NZ.

  13. Bloody scary stuff not a mention of this in msm (that I’ve seen)
    This sort of shit should send a shiver up everyone’s spine……

  14. Transport law defence used to have a principle of determining if there was any “intent” – surely the drug dealer and law breaker can have an intent factor – there would not be one employer who wants to be responsible for an employee death. SO what is wrong with our law enforcement officers. We are getting great in the game of blame but weak on wisdom.

  15. I think that this man and his supporters should speak to Winston Peters. Recent news items show him to be very concerned about small to medium businesses right now, and I think he is the politician most likely to take up the cudgels on his behalf.
    (I may have posted this twice – I started to post it a moment ago and something appeared to go wrong in the process)

  16. I feel the families pain but sadly the primary cause of the explosion was an idiot act by a stupid person. Who in their right mind welds a fuel tank of any kind without venting it properly,,A wise man once told me that accidents are natures way of increasing the IQ of the human population by removing stupid people. Regardless of responsibility this is just one more sneaky backroom deal cooked up by an increasingly dishonest Government agency..One would hope that the Government in NZ still has control of its hit men and can reign in this idiocy before it brings down the Government. I does make you worry that we armed the fuckers. If the people en-mass rise up against the police they won’t find their guns will save them,..A lot of us have fought in wars and we know some shit.!!

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