Some of our senior litigation, employment/health and safety law and public law experts recently conducted a Health & Safety mock trial for one of our long-time clients, Watercare Services Limited (Watercare), in relation to its Central Interceptor (CI) tunnel. 

The mock trial was held at Auckland University’s Law School Moot Court. It was based on CI Executive Director Shayne Cunis's own experience in court, when a contractor working with a blow torch caused a fatal gas explosion in a waterpipe in 2011. The tragic incident resulted in the death of an employee. 

Mock trial scenario

The mock trial was based on a fictitious incident at Watercare’s S25 Site (located at the Miranda Reserve in Blockhouse Bay). The scenario was set during a Watercare site visit where a failing scaffold coupler struck one of the directors on the head. On further investigation, it was discovered that the coupler had loosened from the scaffolding and was not properly secured. Further investigation found that the scaffolding had likely been impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023, during the weekend before the site visit. However, the contractor had not ensured that a registered scaffolder had checked the structure before use, which they were required to do. 

The post-incident investigation also identified other issues at the site, which included the contractors’ workers cutting corners to avoid delays or additional costs to the CI, and the Watercare team choosing not to raise a health and safety report about a known “near miss” involving another coupler just months before the incident, due to fear of repercussion from the CI Engineer.


For many participants in the mock trial, it was a first-time opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of courtroom procedures and experience giving evidence in the witness box, in respect of a significant health and safety incident. Watercare’s media team also used the mock trial to provide training on the ‘media scrum’ that might accompany a health and safety hearing of this scale.

The mock trial has been lauded as such a success that we have already been instructed to design and conduct a similar mock trial for the CI’s JV Contractor.

On the case

During the mock trial, our Employment Partner John Rooney presided over the hearing as the Judge. Meanwhile Employment/Health and Safety Senior Associate Mike Mercer was the Prosecutor, and Litigation Senior Associate Nick Chapman acted as Defence. Public Law Senior Associate Tim Bremner, together with Solicitor Amarind Eng, assisted with the event to ensure the mock trial was successfully planned and executed.

About the CI

Once completed, the CI will be the longest bored tunnel in New Zealand. It will be 4.5 metres in diameter and run for 14.7 kilometres from Grey Lynn under central Auckland and the Manukau Harbour to Māngere, and is created using a state-of-the-art Micro Tunnel Boring Machine.


Related Articles