Forty-year British mining veteran Tony Forster will take over in January as chief inspector of mines in the New Zealand labour ministry’s high hazards unit.
The gravity of the appointment was not lost on government officials who have grappled with an exhaustive selection process since a series of gas explosions claimed the lives of 29 men almost two years ago.
“We are very pleased to have someone of Mr Forster’s caliber in this role,” labour minister Kate Wilkinson said.
“It is the result of an international search to find the best person from a very small pool of candidates.”
Forster has been deputised as the UK’s chief inspector of mines and currently serves as principal inspector of mines.
Forster started his career as a coalface production worker, continued as a mine manager and worked for 14 years as a rescue team member, having taken part in several underground rescue and recovery operations.
He holds a master of science degree in occupational safety and health and is a chief adviser to the UK health and safety executive on mines rescue and emergency planning.
Forster is a board member of the International Mines Rescue body and a principal judge at the group’s rescue competitions.
As a chartered mining engineer, he is also a fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and a member of the Institute of Mining Engineers Technical Committee.
The role of New Zealand’s safety inspectorate has been filled in the interim by Queensland chief mines inspector Gavin Taylor.