Hamilton City Council sentenced over zookeeper's death

Samantha Kudeweh (Supplied)
Samantha Kudeweh (Supplied)

The husband of a woman mauled to death by a tiger in the council-run Hamilton Zoo has attacked the council's sentence as a "farce", and says the system is a "crock of s***".

"We've lost a beautiful woman and the punishment for that is almost nothing and they get away with it," says Richard Kudeweh.

Samantha Kudeweh, 43, was killed after being attacked by an adult male Sumatran tiger in an enclosure of the zoo on September 20, 2015.

She had been a keeper for more than two decades and was a senior member of the zoo's team. She'd mistakenly left gates open in the tiger's enclosure and found herself face-to-face with it.

A WorkSafe investigation concluded negligence from her employer was partly to blame.

"It should have not been possible for Samantha to enter that enclosure when the tiger was roaming. We should have done better," says council chief executive Richard Briggs.

In June, the council pleaded guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of Mrs Kudeweh while at work - despite saying human error also caused the tragedy.

Hamilton City Council has been ordered to pay $38,250 as a fine and $5181.80 to each of her two children in reparation.

Judge Clark today said she thought $100,000 in emotional harm reparation was fair, but the council has already paid $116,000 to the Kudeweh family in the past year, so didn't need to pay any more.

However, her husband, Richard Kudeweh, says payments from the council hadn't come through in the past, and the fine "doesn't do a lot for the family".

"I've lost my soul mate, my wife," Mr Kudeweh, told Newshub in June.

Judge Denise Clark said: "She (Mrs Kudeweh) was a shining light within her family. Her death has had, and will continue to have a devastating effect on all their lives."

"His (Mr Kudeweh) life has been completely turned on its head. He struggles each day to stay composed so that his children are not burdened further."

He said the time since his wife's death had been the most difficult nine months of his life. The couple's two children were nine and three years old at the time their mother died.

"There's no amount of anything that the council can give to us that's going to make any significant difference in terms of bringing Sam back, because that just can't happen, but we accept that," Mr Kudeweh said.

"Hamilton City Council leadership, who are ultimately responsible for the Health and Safety breach, could have owned that responsibility in September 20 last year."

They didn't, he said, "and in turn have done so much more damage to us".

Mr Kudeweh says a red flag should have been raised in 2013 when a tiger caught up with a keeper through a number of gates.

The council's since spent more than $300,000 implementing new safety measures and reviewing how the zoo cares for dangerous animals.

Oz, the male Sumatran tiger responsible for the attack, was not euthanised as his species is increasingly rare.

Mr Kudeweh worked at the zoo with his wife but couldn't bear working there after her death.

He now faces the one year anniversary of his wife's death on Tuesday without his soulmate, and without the sentence he was after.