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Court hears of improvements to Hamilton Zoo safety systems after keeper’s death
A sentencing hearing has been advised that Hamilton City Council has spent more than $200,000 on safety improvements at Hamilton Zoo following the death of a zookeeper.
Responding to a health and safety charge laid by WorkSafe in the Hamilton District Court this week, the Council said it had since spent $217,000 on improving zoo safety, including introducing a two-keeper system for tigers, installing CCTV cameras, improving radio communications, gates, locking systems, signage and visibility.
The Court case follows the death of zookeeper Samantha Kudeweh who was mauled by a tiger at the Zoo in September last year.
The 43-year-old was killed after entering the enclosure of a tiger at Hamilton Zoo, not knowing he was roaming free.
In Court, the Council said it had also spent $125,000 on an independent report, and had made $116,000 in discretionary payments to Kudeweh's family.
The Council pleaded guilty in June to failing to take all practical steps to ensure her safety.
The maximum fine for the charge is $250,000.
However, the Council argued it should be fined no more than $40,000, after taking into account mitigating factors such as the reparations it had already made, its early guilty plea, and previous record of no health and safety convictions.
If further reparations were required, the Council said it should only pay modest sums for emotional harm and financial loss.
The Council's lawyer, James Gurnick, said the Council was genuinely remorseful and had attended a restorative justice conference with the victims' family.
WorkSafe said the council should be fined $42,000, and pay $110,000 for emotional harm and $190,000 for financial loss.
Its prosecutor, Catlijne Pille, said the financial loss included the loss of Kudeweh's earnings, up until the time her two children come of age.
Pille said Kudeweh's husband Richard, who was also working at the Zoo at the time of her death, no longer felt able to work there and faced an uncertain financial future.
She said the tiger was an obvious hazard and there were practical steps that could have been taken prior to the accident.
Those included implementing a two-keeper system, and making adjustments to gates, locking devices and signage.
She said a 2013 incident, when a keeper had a close call with a tiger, should have alerted the Council that steps needed to be taken.
Gurnick said the Council's departure from industry standards was not significant in an industry where there was a lack of discernible international guidelines.
He said WorkSafe's practical steps were not fail safe, and processes would always require keepers to identify that an animal was not in an enclosure they were about to enter.
The sentence is expected to be announced in the coming days.
Hamilton Zoo is currently marking Conservation Week, from 10th to 18th September.
11th July 2016 - HAMILTON ZOO ANNOUNCES BIRTH OF WHITE RHINOCEROS BABY
21st September 2015 - HAMILTON ZOO TIGER WILL NOT BE EUTHANISED
20th September 2015 - TIGER KILLS KEEPER AT HAMILTON ZOO
10th December 2014 - WORKSAFE REPORT REVEALS AUSTRALIA ZOO HANDLER ‘OVER EXCITED’ TIGER BEFORE ATTACK
4th July 2014 - FEMALE SUMATRAN TIGER ARRIVES AT WELLINGTON ZOO
26th April 2012 - ELEPHANT KEEPER KILLED AT NORTH ISLAND ZOO
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