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Principal's Duties - Health Safety AND Environment - What landowners need to know

Recent publicity around the forest industry and its safety record has highlighted the duties of principals. In simple terms, forest owners have a legislative requirement to ensure that they have applied due care in ensuring that parties operating on their land or in their forest are doing so in a safe manner in compliance with the law. No longer can they divorce themselves from risks simply by contracting a third-party and "leaving it up to them".

What forest owners may not know is that there are similar principles at work when it comes to environmental law and a requirement for the forest owner to ensure that they know what their obligations are and have taken all reasonable steps to ensure parties they employ to undertake work for them are competent for the job and doing it correctly.

A recent newsletter by legal firm Adderly Head draws attention to examples of prosecutions under the RMA where landowners and consent holders are held liable for actions of third parties. www.adderleyhead.co.nz/updates/2014/february/259 .

The underlying message that should be clear to all is that the days of hiring any contractor off the street should have long past. Forest owners need parties who can identify the risks pertinent to a particular block and who have the expertise and capacity to manage them appropriately. This may well not be the cheapest option in the short-term but a gamble taken and lost could be very much more expensive in the long-run.

Do it right
The correct job at the right time can save expensive mishaps later.

Forest owners also need to be aware of any residual obligations after a harvesting operation has been completed. PF Olsen Environment Manager, Kit Richards, can recall several instances where landowners have moved in after harvest to undertake works within harvested sites, removing water controls and earthworks stabilisation structures, rendering themselves liable to prosecution because consent conditions were no longer being adhered to.

In order to assist landowners on this front, Kit says PF Olsen has introduced an "aftercare" certificate that is provided to landowners upon completion of a harvesting job. This document lays out any residual obligations that must be attended to, such as consent conditions, archaeological authority conditions, culvert inspection routines, threatened species, and others.

After Care Certificate

PF Olsen's "aftercare" certificate makes sure that residual environmental obligations are being met.