Request for assessment

An assessment was initiated in February 2019 regarding the IM practices of the Police during the investigation.

The assessment came after a Radio New Zealand news report highlighted the alleged mismanagement of records – the loss of evidence – as part of both organisations’ investigations into the Pike River tragedy.

The issue

After the Pike River mine disaster in November 2010, the Police conducted a criminal investigation alongside the Department of Labour’s workplace investigation. A debrief in April 2012 highlighted some poor IM practices in relation to the investigations, including around exhibits handling and interview recording, compromising the chain of evidence and the investigations’ outcomes.

The debrief also highlighted the difficulties of IM and preserving a chain of evidence when two agencies work together on a large, time-pressured investigation. As part of the alleged mismanagement, the switchboard door – thought to be a key piece of evidence – went missing and has not been found.

Assessment and recommendation

The request for assessment initially asked the Chief Archivist to make media statements about his “obligation to investigate”, and statements to its stakeholders (especially local and central government agencies) about its “intention to investigate” the claims.

Our work focused on what the Police had done to develop better practices in the future. In response to the request for assessment, Archives New Zealand emailed the Executive Sponsor at the Police, asking them the following:

  1. To report on improvement activities taken since 2012 in relation to the findings in the debrief report – i.e what have they done since then to improve their investigation processes and related IM practices?
  2. Have they developed, as mentioned on page 20 in the 2012 debrief report, some ‘preformatted protocols and memorandums so when something happens there is a procedure to follow’?

We met with the Police after its Executive Sponsor responded and discussed their improvement plan that had been put in place. This includes a new policy, especially for shared investigations, and a new investigation management tool. We are satisfied that the Police have taken the right lessons from this case and are applying them in their organisation.

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