Stuff and NZ Herald are reporting Breaking news that Kate Wilkinson has resigned her portfolio as Minister of Labour, due to the findings in Pike River Mine report. It’s about time a government minister was held accountable for some of the destructive things that they have done and/or that have happened under their watch – things that showed they weren’t watching carefully enough, or with enough consideration of the impact on the lives of ordinary Kiwis…. and others resident here.
“The Pike River Mine tragedy of 19 November 2010 happened on my watch as Minister of Labour,” Ms Wilkinson said in a statement released this afternoon.
Of course, she then goes on to say that it wasn’t really her fault but she’s just being “honourable”.
“While reports from the former Department of Labour did not advise me of concerns about their ability to administer the health and safety legislation, 29 men lost their lives in this tragedy.
“I feel it is the right and honourable thing to do.”
The Government’s response to the recommendations will be released shortly.
Chris Finlayson has been appointed by Prime Minister John Key as acting Minister of Labour.
Ms Wilkinson retains her ministerial warrant and other portfolios.
On the last sentence: really? Doesn’t this show she is not fit to be a minister? And what of Key’s role in this? The buck stops with him.
Tracy Watkins on Stuff reports [update: Watkins name is now no longer on the updated Stuff report]:
In a damning report into the November 2010 explosion which killed 29 workers, the Commission found Pike River’s “drive for coal production before the mine was ready created the circumstances within which the tragedy occurred”.
It is also recommending sweeping changes after finding the Department of Labour failed. The Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, has resigned from the portfolio effective immediately.
The report shows that the mine was operating without adequate health and safety safeguards being provided by the Pike River company, there had been excessive methane in the mine for months while it was still operating, and the drainage and ventilation systems could not cope.
But it is not just the company that was at fault:
The Department of Labour should have prohibited the mine from operating until adequate systems were in place.
It “assumed” Pike River was complying with the law “even though there was ample evidence to the contrary”.
unfortunately, this is all too late for the victims of the disaster and their families, and must bring cold comfort to the families. Some are now seeking a manslaughter charge:
Carole Rose, mother of Pike River victim Stuart Mudge, said that with the inquiry complete, the families were hoping someone would be held culpable and manslaughter charges laid.
“Twenty-nine men died.
“We want to see charges… somebody is responsible for this.”
Updates: Video of John Key’s press conference today – 40 minutes. Clearly there are several contentious issues that will require full and thorough examintaion and analysis. Key claims Wilkinson is not to blame, but did the honourable thing in resigning. It seems no one told her about the concerns about the mine safety. Key said they have already implemented changes to health and safety systems and will do more. He acknowledges it didn’t work to let the mining company be self-regulating – what a surprise!
And the news coverage of the report and Wilkinson’s resignation has gone international. It was picked up by Aussie news sites this afternoon – not surprising as there were Australians killed in the mine . UK news sites have also started reporting it – though why The UK Telegraph uses the spelling “Labor” is beyond me? Wall Street Journal focuses on safety failures.
Video and report of the responses of some family members and their lawyer.
Video of Shearer’s response (7 mins): Need to improve the systems with a stronger regulatory system; if the Labour government is found to have been at fault during their period in office, Labour will accept responsibility.
ABC (Aussie) video, print and audio reports:
The mother of Australian victim Joshua Ufer told the ABC she was pleased with the report’s recommendations to strengthen health and safety regimes in New Zealand.
Mr Ufer was 25 years old and left behind a partner and an unborn child.
His mother, Joanne, says she hopes the police investigation will result in criminal charges.
Very full and critical report from ABC News (Aussie) – a good recommendation for public service broadcasting! As well as being critical of the company and DoL, the journalist also blames governments (past and present) for deregulation ideology.