Aviation safety issues and actions

The Director of National Parks' risk management

Issue number: AO-2019-025-SI-02
Issue owner: Director of National Parks
Transport function: Aviation: General aviation
Background: Investigation Report AO-2019-025
Issue release date: 26 February 2021
Current issue status: Open – Safety action pending
Issue status justification:

Engaging an aviation specialist in task design has negated the immediate risk. The DNP has developed a path and committed to the necessary steps to make proactive risk management a well-supported function in planning and developing aviation activities. This safety action will be reviewed in December 2021 or sooner if advised as completed.

Safety issue description

The Director of National Parks did not actively manage the risk of the aerial culling task being conducted in the Kakadu National Park, or effectively supervise the operation. As a result, an increase in the number of crew, a change in helicopter type and change of helicopter operator all progressed without requisite risk management. This exposed crew to avoidable harm during low-level aerial shooting operations.

Proactive action

Action number: AO-2019-025-NSA-039
Action organisation: Director of National Parks
Date: 01 January 2021
Action status: Monitor

In January 2021, the Director of National Parks (DNP) advised of the following safety action:

The DNP has undertaken a range of actions to address safety issues relating to managing risks associated with aerial culling operations. In particular, the DNP has undertaken a specialist aviation safety review into its aerial culling operation risk assessment and aviation activity services contracts, resulting in:

  • the overarching and continuing suspension of aerial culling operations pending the outcome of all related reviews;
  • a new requirement for DNP-level approval of any future aerial culling operations; and
  • recruitment of specialist staff to KNP to deliver work health and safety (WHS) and training solutions and improvements with a focus on high-risk activities including aerial culling operations.

Helpfully informed by the ATSB’s review, next steps are underway and will include:

  • continued review of the DNP’s risk management policy (and the broad interactions with departmental and Commonwealth risk management frameworks) to address findings and recommendations in relation to the incident;
  • finalisation of a revised risk profile and risk assessment which addresses key risk areas prior to undertaking any future aerial culling operation;
  • completion of an updated suite of documentation and training specific to aerial culling operations extending to operating procedures, compliance, essential qualifications, planning and approvals; and
  • improvements to procurement and contract management processes for aviation activities including for aerial culling operations.

At a local KNP [Kakadu National Park] level, the DNP has also…

  • undertaken a KNP-focused risk workshop and planned supplementary staff workshops/training in risk planning and mitigation to enable staff and managers to confidently and effectively plan for aerial activities.
Last update 26 February 2021