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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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It's elf and safety mate!

8 November 2017

As we all know, in the wake of the Pike River mine tragedy of 2010, the government introduced what can only be described as "knee-jerk" over-reactionary legislation that has ruined forever many of the freedoms that Kiwis enjoyed and treasured.

Now "risk" has become the watchword of the day and it seems as if you can't even sneeze without a multi-volume safety plan and the help of a dozen or more specialist consultants.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has had huge repercussions across every aspect of most NZers lives and has inflicted massive extra cost on even the simplest of jobs -- such as painting a house or digging a drain.

Even though our no-fault ACC system provides medical coverage for workplace injuries in return for foregoing the right to sue, it seems that the government itself has reinstated this right by way of criminal penalties for those who it deems to have contributed to any workplace accident. And remember, virtually *everywhere* is potentially a workplace, even your local park, school playground or home.

We've heard many stories of the ridiculous effects of these new laws -- from schools threatening to remove playground equipment and ban contact sports, through to hunters and fishermen being denied access to farms and other areas they have used for years in the past.

And now, right here in Tokoroa, another example of this H&S lunacy has surfaced.

Who would have thought that a community-minded pensioner with a penchant for painting beautiful bird pictures so as to brighten up the town in which she lives, would have fallen foul of this most silly of laws?

Well here's the story as reported by Stuff.co.nz

Yes, that's right, all along the street where I live, the ugly, rarely cleaned or repainted junction boxes that are a blight on the landscape have been beautified by the delightful Elaine Rowe and her paintbrush.

For weeks, every time I walked or drove down the street towards home I would see her out there with her little dog and her palette of paints, turning each of these ugly boxes into a beautiful work of art.

Fantastic!

It is this sort of thing that helps create a really positive community spirit and it sure beats the tagging that otherwise becomes the only bit of creative art we get to see on such pieces of utility equipment.

Now this woman was doing nothing wrong, she wasn't damaging the boxes in any way and, for the life of me, I fail to see how her brilliant efforts pose a threat to either herself or others.

But...

Enter PowerCo (the company which owns the boxes) and NZ's wonderful H&S laws.

They used to say "to err is human but to really F something up takes a computer"... well I think that saying needs to be updated because when it comes to F'ing things up, there is nothing more effective than a mix of politicians, bureaucrats and corporate lawyers.

PowerCo have told Ms Rowe to cease and desist her unsafe activities. WTF?

PowerCo's "Group Health Safety Environment and Quality Manager" (now there's a bureaucratic title if ever I heard one) told Stuff that her painting "was a safety risk".

To quote this person, from the Stuff story:

"We take safety very seriously and for the general public to begin water blasting and painting power boxes without any communication with PowerCo is very dangerous".

What the hell?

I never saw this delightful old lady with anything remotely resembling a water-blaster in her hand and, given that she's done an entire street, I really don't think she would have had an extension cord long enough even if she had chosen to water-blast these cabinets.

What a load of trumped-up twaddle from PowerCo!

PowerCo go on to say that the power boxes contain live cables so the presence of "excess water, paint or any substance is not safe".

Excuse me?

If these things are so susceptible to the ingress of the water from a damp cloth (which is what the painter was using to wipe them down) then why the hell are they exposed to the elements and placed just a metre or so from a busy footpath? Is PowerCo suggesting that any child which might lean against one of these cabinets after a spring shower faces a risk of electrocution perhaps?

Yeah -- utter lunacy!

You'd think that PowerCo (who spend a sizable chunk of change on advertising and PR every year) would have realised that there'd be a huge amount of goodwill to be had if they'd offered to provide this lady with a set of spare junction-box covers that she could paint at her leisure -- and then, once painted, mount them on the tired old boxes that line our streets. That'd be a win-win for everyone -- except perhaps the expensive advertising and PR agencies who suck on the corporate tit and earn huge sums of money for giving bad advice.

What the hell is wrong with this country?

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