Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC Director General Penny Nelson today released the findings of two independent reviews commissioned to examine DOC’s health and safety culture following the tragic fatal helicopter accident in 2018.

Date:  11 October 2022

DOC rangers Paul Hondelink and Scott Theobald, along with pilot Nick Wallis, were on their way to undertake tahr control in the Haast area on the morning of 18 October when their helicopter crashed.

“When Paul, Scott and Nick were lost on that awful day, DOC’s senior leadership vowed to do everything necessary to ensure all staff and contractors come home safe after work,” Penny Nelson says.

“DOC’s senior leadership wanted to ensure there was a thorough examination of the events leading up to the crash and the organisation subsequently implemented changes to help keep staff and contractors safe from harm.”

The Director General at the time of the incident commissioned an independent review from PwC which made a number of recommendations aimed at significantly strengthening DOC’s health and safety systems including culture.

“Today we are releasing PwC’s own summary of that report, as the full report is subject to privacy, legal privilege and natural justice considerations. We are also releasing DOC’s organisational response report,” Penny Nelson says.

To have confidence real changes to DOC’s health and safety had been made, in June 2022 Penny Nelson commissioned an independent review by CosmanParkes health and safety consultancy.

“I wanted assurance health and safety systems were robust following the implementation of the recommendations,” she says.

“The CosmanParkes report provides that assurance.”

With court proceedings against helicopter company Alpine Helicopters now concluded, Penny Nelson can release the findings from the two reports DOC commissioned. 

“The PwC report found there were events leading up to the fatal accident that should have been managed better. Systems were in place but failed to deliver the necessary health and safety culture to address people’s concerns about the 2018 Tahr control programme.

“DOC’s organisational response to the PwC review shows important and enduring changes have been made to ensure risks identified in the lead up to operational fieldwork are addressed through improved safety systems work.”

There has been a strong focus on improving helicopter safety including implementing a new ‘Helicopter Boarding Pass’ critical risk checklist. DOC also introduced new helicopter standards which all operators need to meet to undertake any DOC or Fire and Emergency New Zealand work.

DOC’s Tahr control programme is now managed as a national programme under a National Director with additional resources.

“DOC has strengthened its operating model to ensure accountability systems are embedded and staff are actively encouraged to escalate issues if they are concerned safety is being compromised,” Penny Nelson says.

“The latest independent review from health and safety consultancy CosmanParkes provides assurance the necessary changes have been implemented from the lessons learnt.”

DOC will continue to monitor helicopter safety, incident management and reporting, and our overall health and safety culture.

“Health and safety are top priorities, and we will keep a focus on continuous assessment and improvement of our systems and processes and will act whenever our people have any safety concerns,” says Penny Nelson.

For the PwC and CosmanParkes summary reports, and DOC’s organisational response, visit DOC’s website:


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