The Hawke's Bay family of Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, who died in the 2010 Anzac Day helicopter crash, say this week's inquiry into the incident prolongs the raw agony they've been trying to put behind them for nearly three years.
A Government legal review has found the department in charge of workplace safety did not correctly investigate the Anzac Day Air Force crash which killed three servicemen because it misunderstood the law it enforced.
An inquiry will start this week to look into the Department of Labour's failure to investigate health and safety issues behind the crash near Pukerua Bay, which killed Mr Madsen, 33, formerly of Taradale, co-pilot Flying Officer Daniel Gregory, 28, and crewman Corporal Ben Carson, 25. Sergeant Stevin Creeggan, 37, survived but suffered serious injuries.
The inquiry will not, however, investigate the actual health and safety failures. Prosecution for breaches is no longer possible because the time limit has passed.
Ben Carson's father, Andrew, said he would make a complaint to the police in a bid to make someone responsible for the deaths.
"If it had been any other company in New Zealand, these people would have been investigated and either found responsible or not to blame."
But Hayden Madsen's father Peter, from Taradale, said he could not see the point of the inquiry: "We don't mind any inquiry that makes the Air Force safer for people, rather than one that is for personal gain. I don't know why people don't come clean and sue the Air Force if that's what they want to do and get to the end of the whole thing.
"We've said we are happy with the way the Air Force has conducted itself but people seem to want to keep digging things up over and over again which is making it all feel very raw for us. It'll be nearly three years this coming Anzac Day and I think enough is enough."
Mr Madsen said his family was trying to focus "on the positives" which included an invitation from the Royal Australian Air Force recently.
"They've paid for a trip for us to Canberra, in November, where they've got a cricket trophy they want to dedicate in Hayden's name.
"Hayden played a lot of cricket over there for the defence forces and was held in high esteem. So my wife (Julie) and Hayden's wife Kim, the three of us, are going over there for four or five days."
The new inquiry comes after Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman ordered a review of the safety improvements following the crash. As State Services Minister, Dr Coleman will now announce a second inquiry into health and safety enforcers' mistaken rejection of their responsibility to investigate the crash. His staff said details of both inquiries would be announced this week.
It is understood the mistake occurred because the Department of Labour, now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise, believed its responsibility to investigate workplace accidents did not extend to air accidents. It referred the matter to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which investigates air crashes.
The CAA told the department it had no jurisdiction over military accidents - and no investigation was undertaken by either party. The ministry's health and safety head, Brett Murray, said Crown Law determined the department did have jurisdiction to investigate. In future military aviation accidents, "the ministry would lead the investigation with support from the CAA".
The error led to Dr Coleman being given incorrect advice, which he repeated in a letter in February to the Carsons, who had asked why the Air Force was allowed to investigate itself. Dr Coleman replied: "The Department of Labour does not investigate events involving the operation of aircraft."
Probe adds to agony
He said the military "must have its own airworthiness and flight safety processes around military flying regimes and tasks".
Dr Coleman was told about three weeks ago that he had been wrongly advised. Yesterday, he would not be interviewed, but an official in his office said State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie was setting up an inquiry to find how the mistake happened and ensure it was not repeated.
Mr Murray said the issue emerged after the Carson family questioned the lack of a health and safety inquiry.
Two weeks ago, Mr Murray met the CAA, the Carsons and lawyers acting for survivor Sergeant Stevin Creeggan, who is suing the Air Force over health and safety failures. At the meeting, Mr Murray said he explained the confusion.
Mr Carson said he was told the time limit for a health and safety investigation had passed: "The inquiry the air force was conducting was nothing to do with health and safety. It was focused on the squadron and the cause of the accident."
The Air Force review was carried out on the basis it would not find fault. It revealed a tangled chain of command and flouting of safety-based orders amid a culture of risk-taking with over-stretched safety systems.