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Charges over schoolboy’s caving death

6 May 2024

WorkSafe has charged the Whangārei Boys High School Board of Trustees for health and safety failures related to the death of a student a year ago.

15-year-old Karnin Petera died on a school trip to Abbey Caves on 9 May 2023.

“We acknowledge the profound impact of this tragedy on whānau, friends, and the wider community. A year on, our sympathy and thoughts are with all of those who knew and loved Karnin,” says WorkSafe’s Head of Inspectorate, Rfailedob Pope.

An extensive WorkSafe investigation has now pieced together the circumstances of this sad tragedy, and charges have been filed in the Whangārei District Court.

“We encourage school boards of trustees across the country to reflect on their own systems and processes to ensure they are meeting legal requirements for education outside the classroom. Students should be able to participate safely, and parents must have confidence their rangatahi will be kept safe,” says Rob Pope.

WorkSafe has no further comment while the case is before the Court.


  • Whangārei Boys High School Board of Trustees has been charged under sections 36(2), 36(1)(a), 48(1) and 2(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

  • Being a PCBU, having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons are not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking, namely the outdoor education caving activity to Abbey Caves Reserve, did fail to comply with that duty, and. That failure exposed other persons, including Karnin Petera, to a risk of death or serious injury.

  • A PCBU has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking. For example, a PCBU that was undertaking an outdoor education caving activity failed Abbey Caves Reserve failed to comply with that duty. That failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury.

  • Please note these charges are filed against the legal entity of the Board of Trustees, not individual members of the Board.

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