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Safer rail update
24 June 2021


Kia ora and welcome to the Safer Rail Update. This is a quarterly update from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency on what's happening in the rail sector from the regulator's perspective and stories from around the rail industry to highlight progress and successes in ensuring the rail network is safe for everyone.

If you have any stories or images you feel may be suitable for this quarterly publication, please contact



Full steam ahead for the Kingston Flyer

One of the rail icons of the lower South Island was back in business in late April following years of work from the organisation behind it, and some guidance from the Safer Rail team at Waka Kotahi.

The Kingston Flyer (operated by Kingston Flyer Ltd - KFL) has not operated passenger trains since 2013, so there was much excitement when a charter group of more than 100 tourists discovered they would be the first people to ride in the Flyer for eight years on a 14km sojourn to Fairlight.

Senior Rail Safety Officers Graeme Hudson and David Batenburg worked with the Flyer’s operators to carry out a safety assessment. They then approved a safety case variation for several trial runs after KFL was able to assure our team the Flyer could be operated safely and that risks were identified and managed.

David Batenburg was in the area the day after the first run was completed and took the opportunity to visit KFL to review the first day’s operation.

KFL director (and driver) Neville Simpson has told our team that he has been very appreciative of Safer Rail’s guidance to ensure the Flyer can operate safely.

Caption: (left) David Batenburg, Senior Rail Safety Officer, with KFL director Neville Simpson in front of the Flyer in late April.



Safer Rail comings and goings

There have been a number of changes at a leadership level within the Safer Rail team.

Foremost among these is the appointment of Virginia (Gini) Welch, who began as the Senior Manager Safer Rail on Tuesday, 8 June. Gini joins Waka Kotahi from the New Zealand Police, where she has served since 1994. During her time there she carried out several roles, including District Commander, National Manager Road Policing, District Prosecution Manager, and more recently General Manager Training. Interim Senior Manager Neil Adams finished on Friday, 18 June, having supported a handover to Gini, and is looking forward to a well-earned retirement.

Steven (Steve) MacMillan has been appointed to the role of Manager Rail Compliance, having been acting in the role for the past few months. Steve joined Waka Kotahi in November 2019 following significant careers in the Royal Navy and the Royal New Zealand Airforce and at Airways Corporation of New Zealand. He is a qualified Aircraft Engineer and currently working to complete Chartered Engineer (CEng) registration. Steve has also been instrumental, along with Peace Katumbu, in developing the Rail Regulatory Risk Framework that will form a key pillar in Safer Rail’s rail regulation in the coming years.

Natalie Wyatt-Renney has been appointed to the new position of Manager Systems Support within Safer Rail. Natalie is a Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Science, has a Master’s of Science in Psychology and completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology. Prior to coming to us she has excelled in previous roles as a Senior Governance Advisor with the New Zealand Defence Force and as a Senior Advisor Strategy planning and Assurance at the State Services Commission. Natalie has been with Waka Kotahi for the past 18 months as a Senior Operations Analyst where she has led the drive to improve our performance through robust reporting mechanisms.

We said farewell to Rob Gould, Manager Rail Licensing, earlier this month after 13 years at Waka Kotahi. Natalie Bull has been appointed to the Acting Manager role until a permanent replacement is appointed.

Georgia Jarvis joined Waka Kotahi earlier this year as a team administrator and is the key contact for matters such as the Safety Performance Reports as well as fees and invoices. She will continue to be in regular contact with many licence holders. 



Time for Safety Performance Reports nears

On 1 July, Waka Kotahi will email the 2020/21 Safety Performance Report to your organisation's nominated Safety Liaison Officer for completion. As with previous years, you will be able to make a submission via an online form (our preferred method) or a Microsoft Word document. All submissions need to be returned by 15 August. If your organisation cannot meet this deadline, please get in touch as soon as possible.

Your responses allow us to monitor licence holder safety performance and are increasingly valuable in helping us understand the rail sector’s overall safety performance (see the infographic above that was used in our Signal publication). The responses also provide us with information about the size of the rail sector. This is vital for planning our services and informing government policy. The Safety Performance Report data ensures the annual charges every licence holder must pay are accurate and fair.

This year’s survey is similar to last year. We will be seeking data for the period 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 on the following:

  • The size and nature of the licence holder’s workforce
  • Details of any non-licensed service providers performing rail activities for the licence holder
  • The level of rail activity of the licence holder
  • The nature of the rail activities of the licence holder
  • The rail safety occurrences experienced by the licence holder.

If you would like more detail, you can see the Word forms below (but please wait until we email you before filling them out).

We do not want to increase the administrative burden on licence holders and we expect most organisations will already be collecting this information as part of monitoring their own activity and safety performance. Estimates are acceptable, but we encourage you to set up systems to measure these performance and activity indicators.

If you have any questions or need support once you have received your Safety Performance Report, please email us at or email your licence manager. There are no fees for queries about, or in submitting, your safety performance report.



Completing remedial actions

Once a safety assessment report is issued, Waka Kotahi will determine if the licence holder is required to take any remedial action to address the findings made in the report. This is a legislative compliance action imposed by the regulator so we’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the implications of complying with this particular course of action.

When responding to remedial actions, it is important that the rail licence holder provides a formal response which demonstrates how the organisation has managed the action required. The more specific and clear you can be with your response and associated evidence, the easier it is for Waka Kotahi to consider your findings and to make a decision on closing the remedial action.

This includes providing any updated documents and/or processes, with any changes marked to identify what you’ve changed, and state which finding the document is addressing. If you send through a whole document without specifying the section or aspect which relates to the finding, it may not be approved/closed.

You must provide responses with supporting evidence to close all remedial actions, non-compliances and recommendations within the set timeframes. It is important to note that a remedial action is a statutory notice under the Railways Act 2005. You must complete the action by the due date or further regulatory requirements, such as a safety improvement plan, may also be imposed on you and/or your operations may be suspended. Extensions will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.



Rail Safety Award makes its way to new owner

The Nelson Railway Society claimed this year’s Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Tourist and Heritage Rail Safety Award at the Federation of Rail Organisations New Zealand (FRONZ) conference in Gisborne on Queen's Birthday Weekend, thanks to their application of risk management in building their new track.

The society identified potential risks to its equipment, its members and the public, and took the initiative to develop a programme of work to address these risks.

Senior Rail Safety Officer Donald Senior was able to pass on the award to the society last week, as the society was unable to attend the conference.

The Safer Rail team, in particular conference attendees Neil Adams, Peace Katumbu, Jason Lawn and Donald Senior, appreciated all the work that the FRONZ executive put into this conference that gives the industry a chance to celebrate and improve rail safety. 

Caption: Left: Andrew James, System Manager Top of South (left) and Donald Senior (right), both of Waka Kotahi, present the Rail Safety Award to Bob Murray, Nelson Railway Society general manager, earlier this week. Right: a section of the new track.



Contact from Allen + Clarke about a survey

Your safety liaison officers should have received an email and/or phone call from Tanya at public policy firm Allen + Clarke last week requesting information on behalf of Waka Kotahi about any other organisations you currently work with in operating your railway. Thank you for your assistance on prioritising this important matter.

We apologise for the urgency but we have only a short opportunity to have them complete this for us (rather than pull our team from their other work). It costs you nothing other than your time to participate and we appreciate your co-operation.

This survey is part of a broader piece of work Allen + Clarke are doing on behalf of Waka Kotahi to help us understand more about rail participants who aren’t required to hold licences. Our regulatory responsibility encompasses all rail participants, of which only a minority are required to hold a rail licence.

As part of the Safer Rail Team delivering on the aspirations of our regulatory strategy Tū ake tū māia, we need to understand more about non-licensed participants. In particular, we need to understand the risks from the activities they carry out and, importantly for you, which of these risks we can separate from your responsibilities as the licence holder.

If you have any questions, please contact Tanya in the first instance or engage with your Waka Kotahi licence manager. Once we have built a broader picture, we expect we will report back to the industry on what we found and proposed intentions for managing those participants going forward.



Website spotlight on . . . Governance

Rail safety cases must include a section that outlines arrangements your organisation has in place to promote the safety of any rail activities you carry out. The governance of an organisation forms a big part of this, and governing bodies can use the guidance on our website to ensure they’re making informed decisions that promote safety.

Governance is about working on your business rather than working in it, which distinguishes it from management of the business. Our guidance explains how to govern effectively, how to demonstrate you’re doing so and highlights the effect good governance can have on your safety culture.

For more information, check out the Governance page on our website.



Chequed out

Waka Kotahi no longer accepts cheques as payment for your rail safety fees and charges, due to banks phasing them out. Other payment options remain.

Our preferred method of payment, and easiest method for you, is to set up a direct debit. With a direct debit, the fee or charge you owe is automatically debited from your nominated bank account on the invoice due date. Late payments are a breach of your rail licence, so this is an easy way to maintain compliance. You can still query the invoiceand/or cancel the direct debit authority at any time.

If you have any questions about payment options or would like to set up a direct debit, please contact Georgia on



More information


For more information about Safer Rail at Waka Kotahi, contact us at If you have any specific concerns or questions, please give your licence manager a call.

Visit our website at