Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Berrymans' lawyer mortgages house to pay fine for seeking justice

Several years ago an embattled Adrian Chisholm placed an ad in the paper:  "Honest and a 'lawyer?" said the ad,  "then we need you."  Two lawyers phoned, one of whom had been disbarred.  The other was retired.  That's how rare is the breed that was being sought.

Rob Moodie is one of that rare and esteemed breed.  For years he has pursued justice for former farmers Keith and Margaret Berryman who, through collusion and cover-up and political legerdemain, have lost nearly everything they own -- and just recently he was forced to mortgage his home to pay a $5000 fine and $32,000 in costs awarded to the Crown after he was found guilty of contempt of court for publishing the army's 'Butcher Report' on on the Internet -- the army's own suppressed report that pointed to their culpability in the whole affair.

Poneke offers much of the story and a suitable tribute to the spirited Mr Moodie here.  (And here's Rob Moodie's own website, which I'd like to think should shortly have details of how to send financial donations to help him out.  If not, I wonder If someone might like to start such a project?)

UPDATE:  A trust has been in existence for some years for financial donations.  It is the Berryman Moodie Trust, National Bank Taupo. The Account number is 060429 - 0222810 - 00.  Donations can be made online, or at any National Bank.


  1. Rob Moodie is an admirable guy!

  2. I have been Dr Moodie's proxy web master since April 2005.
    Had you looked at my web site you would have seen that a Trust has been going years for financial donations. About $10,000 was donated.I understand this has all been used in court fees.
    Details are Berryman Moodie Trust,
    National Bank Taupo.The Account number is 060429 - 0222810 - 00.
    Donations can be made at any National Bank.Thank you Ted Smith

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Te_Rata_Bridge

    The Berrymans were to provide all materials, but instead of the specified macrocarpa or tanalised radiata pine timber for the transoms and bearers, they obtained Douglas fir timber from a demolition site in Wanganui. Lieutenant Armstrong's initial reaction was not to proceed with construction using deficient materials, but he was eventually persuaded when Keith Berryman signed a statement, witnessed by a neighbouring JP, taking responsibility for the materials and their subsequent inspection and maintenance.


    George Butcher has now spoken publicly and said Keith Berryman admitted to him that the transoms were in poor condition, that there was visible rot in some timbers, and that he was worried about the state of the bridge. Knowledge of an unsafe work environment and failure to prevent or isolate the risk is an offence under New Zealand's Occupational Safety and Health legislation ...

  4. Thanks Ted. I must confess I found it difficult to see the details of the Trust on that webpage. There you go. :-)

    LUKE: You've been warned before about relying on Wikipedia for anything even remotely controversial...

  5. Fine. Original sources:


    "In an affidavit sworn by Butcher last year, he said he had visited the Berrymans at their farm after the collapse and Keith Berryman admitted to him the transoms had been in poor condition.

    "He said there was growth on the surface of the transoms, he mentioned there was rot beside, in the transom where the posts to the handrail were bolted to the side of the transom," Butcher says.

    "We also discussed the fact that he'd already taken steps before the accident because he was worried about the state of the bridge.""

    From the Butcher report itself:

    (a) The decision to use two 300x75 beams bolted together for the transoms in place of a solid 300x150 member. The interface was not flashed and permitted the entry of water to the centre of the laminate which, with the oxygen available in the gap encouraged fungal growth and accelerated the rate of decay. The effective life of the member would have been significantly reduced as a result.

    (b) The importance of a regular inspection and maintenance programme for the bridge as a whole and the structural components of the timber deck-structure in particular, does not appear to have been reconised by the owners of the bridge.


    Of course this is a shitty situation for both parties. But it seems to me that there is blame to be laid on both sides. The army built a somewhat dodgy bridge with untreated timber provided by the Berrymans. Nonetheless, it held up for years. The Berrymans knew the bridge was rotting but failed to do anything about it, and when it collapsed fingers were pointed in both directions. An expensive and heartrending legal battle ensued.

    I just don't think it is a particularly good example to show that the government is out to get people.

    The OSH case against the Berrymans was thrown out of court, and they were later offered $150,000. Insignificant, perhaps, but at least someone somewhere tried to say sorry. I find it faintly damning that the Berrymans are not willing to accept ANY responsibility for the bridge at all ...


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