I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some key events and issues for the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (the Commission) in the year ended 30 June 2011, all of which are expanded upon in relevant parts of this Annual Report.
Last year we foreshadowed making greater use of our powers as a standing Commission of Inquiry by arranging for Commissioners to engage directly with persons involved in inquiries in addition to the standard interactions with investigators and our usual invitations to interested persons to make written submissions to the Commission on draft final reports. This happened on 3 occasions during the financial year, and involved Commissioners hearing from submitters on contentious or complex matters relating to 2 inquiries and the Commission calling for public submissions on a topic connected with a specific inquiry.
Rail-related work was a significant focus for the investigation team and Commissioners. A backlog of historical inquiries was cleared and many recommendations from earlier inquiries were closed following acceptable responses. We would like to thank rail industry participants for their constructive input, particularly for assisting our inquiries into a series of platform overruns by push-pull trains in the Auckland commuter service and for helping us to close a number of open recommendations.
Rail was also the focus of a second annual historical impact review, a continuing effort to establish the extent to which the Commission’s work results in improvements in transport safety. This review, which looked at trends in derailments due to wagon failures, found, among other things, that derailments in 2010 were at their lowest in a decade following the adoption of Commission recommendations. We will be augmenting these reviews with stakeholder research and refining our overall performance measurement tools and targets.
International work focused on assisting 2 Korean-led inquiries into fishing boat losses in international waters near New Zealand, and the completion of the French-led inquiry into the loss of a New Zealand-owned aircraft to which New Zealand had an accredited representative and technical advisors appointed.
This financial year was the last of a 3-year capability-building programme designed to ensure that the Commission is operating with contemporary frameworks, tools and techniques commensurate with its size, purpose and available resources. The final major components of that programme (i.e. the computer-based Accident Investigation Information Management System (AIIMS) and an associated Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS)), were in User Acceptance Testing at year end. Other programme priorities during the year included updating our policies and introducing a human resource capability strategy, including a performance management system. We are ending this capability-building programme by engaging a senior executive from a core public sector department to conduct an independent review of its implementation in order to identify any adjustments that might be desirable.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the notable contributions to transport safety of 3 former investigators, Doug Monks, Ken Mathews and Paul Bird, who left us during the year. I would also like to thank Pauline Winter, QSO, who served on the Commission for nearly 10 years until May 2011 and to welcome Helen Cull QC, who replaced Pauline as Deputy Chief Commissioner.
John Marshall QC