I was at Pike River mine the morning after the explosion that claimed the lives of 29 men.
It was five years ago and I remember that day vividly.
There was an eerie sense of foreboding; our union organiser was in a state of shock, big tough men were in tears.
I spoke to old-time miners who had worked there in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
From the start they were saying the men wouldn’t come out alive, that the mine had to be sealed. They knew how bad the mine was. But for many the mine meant food on the table and a house, so they didn’t let on.
Health and safety matters enormously to me and it is something I’ve fought for my whole career, as a lawyer and in the unions. Going to work knowing that you will come home again is a basic human right, and one that too many New Zealanders still can’t take for granted.
Something like Pike River should never happen again. Unfortunately there are still those out there who don’t care enough, who don’t understand, who think it is OK to take shortcuts with their workers’ lives.
It’s why we must allow workers to speak out, to have representatives in companies arguing for the best health and safety rules.
Some of our corporates do it beautifully. There are others who could learn from them, and from the Pike River tragedy of five years ago today.
I’m there again tonight, for the commemorative service; remembering the 29.