How we work

MV Rena aground off Tauranga

The Commission will open an inquiry into a marine, rail or air accident or incident if it believes recommendations or lessons may help improve transport safety.

The Commission's job is to explain, and not to blame. It is independent and impartial, with extensive legal powers to gather and protect evidence.

The Commission follows the same process for each inquiry. The initial stage centres on deploying an investigation team to gather evidence. The Commissioners then analyse evidence, determine circumstances and causes, reach findings, make recommendations and finalise their report.

The process respects international expectations for safety-focused accident investigation while ensuring the Commission observes New Zealand law.

The process is summarised below; each heading clicks through to further detail:

Opening an inquiry

The Commission opens an inquiry when it believes the circumstances of an accident or incident have - or are likely to have - significant implications for transport safety, or when the inquiry may allow the Commission to make findings or recommendations to improve transport safety. We consider a range of factors when deciding whether to investigate...

Evidence gathering

In any inquiry, evidence falls into four broad categories: people, machine, environment, mission. Investigators initially focus on gathering evidence that could disappear or change. The Commission has extensive powers to protect and gather evidence. Evidence gathering continues as investigators follow different lines of inquiry...

Evidence analysis

Analysis involves sorting, corroborating, and linking evidence and facts to weigh competing theories. Why and how something went wrong is often complex, reaching beyond an accident vehicle and its operators to wider system issues. The Commission may reach findings on the basis of likelihood rather than certainty...

Draft report and consultation

The investigation team starts drafting the inquiry report after the Commissioners have considered the analysis and confirmed the direction of the findings and potential recommendations. The Commissioners then approve a draft report for consultation...

Final report and publication

The Commissioners receive and consider the written submissions received on the draft report. Sometimes they may require more investigation or analysis, or ask for a submitter to appear before them. The draft text may change in light of new information. When the Commissioners determine their report is final, advance notice is given to those involved and the report is published...

Assisting a TAIC Inquiry

The Commission encourages everyone with evidence to help its investigators understand what happened and why, aiming to prevent a recurrence. Our investigators may seek interviews or access to physical evidence or documents. The law encourages free and frank contributions to a Commission inquiry through protecting evidence from general disclosure or use for other purposes...

Keeping victims and families informed

The Commission understands that victims and their families want to know ‘what happened, why, and how can a similar tragedy be prevented?’ These are the types of questions we are set up to answer. Here we set out our general approach to working with victims, next of kin and families...