Andrew Little: Promises to Pike families must be kept

Written By: - Date published: 11:57 am, November 20th, 2016 - 81 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, disaster, Environment, health and safety, john key, national, national/act government, Politics, same old national, slippery, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

andrew-little-miners-hall

From the Labour Party website.

Six years on from the Pike River disaster, the memory of that day still burns strong, and the families still wait for the Government to make good on its promises. They are still waiting for justice.

Mining communities are special. The work creates a tight bond – your life depends on the person next to you. That spirit of solidarity flows through the whole community. When I was head of the EPMU, the miners were always some of our staunchest members. They stand beside each other no matter what. When tragedy struck, it hit everyone hard.

The grief of the families, friends, and workmates, and the way the whole community rallied around them is still vivid. In that Kiwi way, we all did what we could, no matter how little it may have been. We all understood we needed to help those left behind, get the bodies out, and find out what went wrong so that it would never happen again.

John Key stood in front of those families and said “we’re committed to getting the boys out, and nothing’s going to change that. So, when people try and tell you we’re not… they’re playing with your emotions.” That was during an election campaign, though. The families are still waiting.

Now, Mr Key denies ever making that promise. Now, the government wants to seal the mine forever. Just this week, Mr Key sent Nick Smith to threaten the Pike families with arrest if they try to stop Solid Energy entombing their loved ones.

The Government claims it’s not safe to enter the drift and try to get any bodies in there out. That’s not true. Experts, both local and international, say the mine is now stable. We can get those men out, and secure evidence regarding the cause of the explosion. It can be done.

The National Government just wants to wash its hands of the whole thing, and move on. They don’t seem to care no-one has ever faced court for those 29 deaths, or that the families have never got the bodies back to bury.

That’s not the way Kiwis do things. We do right by people. We ensure that, when there is wrongdoing, there is justice. We keep our promises.

I’m standing with the Pike families in opposing the mine being sealed. It’s time a proper effort is made to bring their men home. They’ve waited long enough.

81 comments on “Andrew Little: Promises to Pike families must be kept”

  1. Garibaldi 1

    Great move. This will have resonance. Well done Andrew Little.

  2. Olwyn 2

    This is something about which Andrew Little is straightforwardly and unambiguously right. No ifs, no buts. The sad thing is that what he is saying needs to be said.

  3. Incognito 3

    Very well said. Now, let’s hope & see whether this will get the attention it deserves in and by MSM; so far, nada …

    • Red 3.1

      Very unlikely it is old news, people , media have moved on, not that they don’t have sympathy for the families but you can’t keep looking back

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1

        Another right winger with a serious empathy deficit and a side order of weasel. The government is trying to go back on its promises today.

        • Red 3.1.1.1

          Thanks little man

          • Clump_AKA Sam 3.1.1.1.1

            The rule is, in an emegancy, park up all vehicals and proceed on foot to the nearest refuge chamber, and surface crew will move heaven and earth to get to you, that keeps the mining community going.

      • Incognito 3.1.2

        Sealing the mine entrance with 20 meters of concrete is “old news”? You don’t say!

        • Red 3.1.2.1

          With out judging any one I suggest most people turn off now when pike river comes up. There is huge competition for disaster news be global or local, time unfortunately dilutes relevance

          • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.2.1.1

            Your weltanschauung is showing.

            The relevance to the families has not changed, therefore the relevance to anyone who empathises with them has not changed.

            This has nothing to do with news cycles.

          • Incognito 3.1.2.1.2

            If you have photos of your lost loved one(s) on the wall, on your bedside, I don’t think you’d make such a statement.

            For me personally it is highly relevant that this Government is honest and open with its citizens AKA us and that it keeps the promises it makes.

            Is that not relevant to you also?

      • Except it’s “overdue news,” where a long period of inaction has made feelings high. This is actually precisely the sort of thing that makes good copy, so if it doesn’t show up, then it’s really more about providing cover for the government.

        I lost count of the news stories I saw about people’s homes not being fixed after the canterbury earthquake. This is the exact same type of story.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    The National Government just wants to wash its hands of the whole thing, and move on. They don’t seem to care no-one has ever faced court for those 29 deaths, or that the families have never got the bodies back to bury.

    I wonder what National are afraid of finding in there?

    It’s not the monetary cost that stopping them from doing it.
    It can’t be the electoral cost either.
    It’s not the will and temper of the people wiling to go in and get them.

    Who or what are National protecting?

    • Cinny 4.1

      Strongly agree with your points Draco.

      And kudos Alpha Andy aka the future PM, you really genuinely care about the people, that is very obvious. Thank you for caring and standing up for and with the Pike Families.

      If MSN fails to spread the word, I’ll make sure I do.

      ” Just this week, Mr Key sent Nick Smith to threaten the Pike families with arrest if they try to stop Solid Energy entombing their loved ones.”

    • Red 4.2

      thier afraid of more people getting killed Draco, it’s not that difficult unless you are a conspiracy nut bar

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.2.1

        Didn’t seem to bother them when they were letting the company get away with manslaughter.

        Right wingers: happy to pretend they respect life only once workers are dead.

      • Draco T Bastard 4.2.2

        No, that’s not it. If they were concerned about that then we probably would have seen serious work on improving working conditions.

      • And you think someone couldn’t have told the Prime Minister that when he made his promise in the first place?

        It’s not unreasonable to not go in to get the bodies because it’s too dangerous. What is unreasonable is to promise you’ll do it then change your mind because it’s too dangerous. That suggests you don’t know what you’re doing.

  5. james 5

    National say they have evidence that its not safe to re-enter.

    Lets just assume that this is true – even if others have different conclusions from other parties.

    IF they allowed people to go in, and there was another tragic accident – and even more people lost their lives – if the people who allowed them to go in – despite having been given evidence that it was unsafe – how would you react to that?

    Should they be held accountable for the additional deaths?

    • mauī 5.1

      Where’s the evidence? I haven’t seen any so far.

      We were led to believe it was safe at the beginning, yet that turned out to be blatantly false. Why would you assume anything from these turkeys now.

      • James 5.1.1

        As I said let’s assume it’s true that he has evidence – as he has said he has – my question still stands.

        • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1

          As I said let’s assume it’s true that he has evidence

          No, lets not. Doing that just encourages the lying that we’ve seen so consistently from this government.

          He needs to show the evidence.

        • Incognito 5.1.1.2

          The answer to your question is No.

          Let’s see the evidence that John Key is evidently privy to but, for some reason, the families of the deceased miners are not. Why not?

          You’re distracting.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.2

      Drop the pretence that you care one jot about workers’ lives.

      • Clump_AKA Sam 5.2.1

        The formula for reentry is ventilate stoop for 1 hour before entry and maintain ventilation. Check for unexploded ordnance, wash everything down with water, declear work site safe for reentry.

        If New Zealand can’t do that then it’s got no fucken business mining.

      • s y d 5.2.2

        It’s not workers lives, rather liability of directors….

      • James 5.2.3

        Would I send someone into something if I had evidence provided to me – hell no.

        That’s not pretending – that is my position 100%

        Now how about trying to answer the question as opposed to trying to divert.

        • infused 5.2.3.1

          they can’t/won’t.

          It’s a big conspiracy.

          Little is jumping on it, because frankly, it’s all he’s got. Pity no ones listening.

          • Clump_AKA Sam 5.2.3.1.1

            Do you relies that it’s impossible to engineer a 100% safe mine? If you can’t clear the refuge chambers at Pike river then all underground mines in NZ has to shut down until proper procedure is sorted

        • One Anonymous Bloke 5.2.3.2

          Your first sentence is munted.

          Time and time again National Party legislation sends people to work where they get injured and killed – on the farms, in the forests, on the chain.

          You do not give a shit about them while they’re alive.

        • Cinny 5.2.3.3

          There is a big difference between the mine and the drift.
          I’d like to see the evidence that it is unsafe to go into the drift, as well as know the background of the people providing the info. Smith claims it’s unsafe to go into the mine, the families only want to go into the drift.

          Sucks that there is such a lack of trust, but that’s how it is towards the outgoing PM, due to his track record and that of his party.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.3

      Should they be held accountable for the additional deaths?

      That would depend on if they’re actually following best practice guidelines or not don’t you think?

      The directors of Pike River weren’t.

      • Red 5.3.1

        I suggest they are, the danger is to high to execute a safe entry according to thier experts and risk analysis , again end of story unless you are a conspiracy nut bar

        • Draco T Bastard 5.3.1.1

          the danger is to high to execute a safe entry according to thier experts and risk analysis

          Well, actually, it’s according to their lies.

          Unless you have their evidence and risk assessment report.

    • JAMES

      The problem is , quite bluntly , … that the narrative you are trying to defend , – as is RED- is shot through with hypocrisy from the beginning.

      We , the posters, the bloggers , untold news articles and even the Royal Commission on Pike River have demonstrated to you time and time again that a) Management was clearly at fault at not creating a ‘ culture of health and safety ‘ despite repeated warnings of dangerous levels of methane , and that all along the way there have been experienced mining officials that have stated the mine was safe to enter contradicting Keys so – called ‘ expert advice’ that he is leaning on now to abscond from responsibility .

      Here is an excerpt from the Royal Commission demonstrating the fallacy of your statement from the Royal Commission itself. I took the liberty to put in capitals certain portions to highlight motives and meanings.

      {‘The new owner of the mine, Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd, has agreed that it will take all reasonable steps to recover
      the bodies provided this ‘can be achieved safely, is technically feasible AND IS FINANCIALLY CREDIBLE
      Any recovery will
      hinge on a resumption of commercial mining operations.
      The mine is sealed and its atmosphere is inert. Solid Energy is ensuring the safety of the mine, including physical
      security, monitoring of the underground atmosphere, checking of seals and contingency planning.
      New Zealand HAS A POOR SAFETY RECORD compared with other advanced countries. The government has set
      up an independent ministerial task force to determine if New Zealand’s health and safety system is fit for purpose. The
      task force will no doubt examine on a broader scale some of the matters that the commission has considered.’}

      …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

      And for trolls such as RED who are always ready with their ruthless mentality to use and manipulate a trajic situation to blame the Labour party, the reds, the lefts and the owner of the cornershop dairy- anyone but their dear National party ,… here is a historical list from the Royal Commission itself demonstrating that the old tactic of this current National govt of blaming Labour in this instance is a fallacy.

      { A failure to learn
      New Zealand’s health and safety record is inferior to that of other comparable countries. The rate of workplace
      fatalities is higher than in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, worse than the OECD average and has remained
      static in recent years.
      New Zealand also has a history of underground coal mine tragedies including:
      1879 Kaitangata mine 34 deaths
      1896 Brunner mine 65 deaths
      1914 Huntly, Ralph’s colliery 43 deaths
      1939 Huntly, Glen Afton No. 1 mine 11 deaths
      1967 Strongman mine 19 deaths
      Lessons from the past, learnt at the cost of lives, have not been retained.}

      …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

      Another excerpt from the Royal Commission on Pike River :

      Governance by the board
      The Pike board of directors was required to set the strategic direction of the company and delegate its
      implementation to management. The directors then had to ensure that appropriate systems were in place,
      including risk management, internal reporting and legal compliance systems, and also monitor the performance of
      management. A two-man health, safety and environment committee was to lead this process and report to the board.
      It could commission external reports and audits.
      The board received a monthly report containing a health and safety section. Although this was helpful, it did not cover
      the hazards relevant to a catastrophic event such as an explosion. The board did not assess critical design and health
      and safety issues, including, for example, the location of the main fan underground at pit bottom. An insurance risk
      survey received in July 2010 identified serious concerns about the hazards posed by hydro mining, windblast and a
      gas explosion, and urged the need for a comprehensive risk assessment of the mining operation. Neither the board
      nor its committee saw the report.
      The mine manager attended a board meeting four days before the explosion and told the directors that gas
      management was ‘more a nuisance and daily operational consideration than a significant problem or barrier to
      operations’.4
      The board was not well placed to assess this assurance.
      The board did not verify that effective systems were in place and that risk management was effective. Nor did it
      properly hold management to account, but instead assumed that managers would draw the board’s attention to
      any major operational problems. The board did not provide effective health and safety leadership and protect the
      workforce from harm. It was distracted by the financial and production pressures that confronted the company.
      …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

      Some have tried to place the blame squarely on the workers , however ,…

      {The workforce
      Pike recognised the need for good training programmes, given the inexperience and diversity of much of its
      workforce. Miners received comprehensive induction training and continuing training was introduced in 2010 but
      deferred as the push for production gathered momentum. Numerous contractors were engaged on a long-term
      basis. Contractor health and safety management was less effective. The induction and underground supervision of
      the smaller contractors in particular was lax. This was recognised and was about to be addressed when the explosion
      intervened.
      Underground, difficulties arose because of a shortage of underviewers and deputies, a high ratio of inexperienced
      to experienced miners and the presence of overseas miners unused to New Zealand mining conditions. A serious
      problem was the workers’ practice of bypassing safety devices on mining machinery so work could continue
      regardless of the presence of methane. This was reckless behaviour. There were also reports of other conduct and
      incidents caused by inexperience, inadequate training and failures to follow procedures.}

      When one views the Commissions conclusions on who has the ultimate responsibility it states this :

      { Production before safety

      10. Coal production is, of course, the core objective of a mining company. But this imperative remains subject to an
      employer’s statutory obligation ‘to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees’.7
      The commission
      considers that the way in which hydro mining began at Pike indicates a culture that put production before safety. }

      {12. In addition, Pike had no previous experience in hydro mining, and used a largely inexperienced workforce and a
      co-ordinator who was neither qualified nor confident in the role. The Pike board approved a hydro-mining bonus
      payable to workers if a production target was met by a defined date, after which the bonus reduced progressively
      each week. These factors, in combination, compel the commission to conclude that, in September 2010 as hydro
      mining began, the pressure for production overrode safety concerns.}

      {Was health and safety management taken seriously?

      17. As Pike’s health and safety manager told the commission, his brief from the company was to develop a world-class
      health and safety management system. Much time and effort was devoted to putting in place what was seen as a
      best practice system. Documents were drawn up, systems were prescribed and training programmes established.
      18. But, as discussed in the chapters on health and safety management and the critical mine systems, commitment
      from others was lacking. The board and executive management did not lead the process. Most documents
      remained in draft, and many were not followed anyway. Systems were set up, but were not used as intended. Safety
      information was not well monitored, and internal and external review of the system was very limited.
      19. Ultimately, the worth of a system depends on whether health and safety is taken seriously by everyone throughout
      an organisation; that it is accorded the attention that the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 demands.
      Problems in relation to risk assessment, incident investigation, information evaluation and reporting, among others,
      indicate to the commission that health and safety management was not taken seriously enough at Pike.}

      {Conclusions

      33. The commission considers that as at November 2010, the emphasis placed on short-term coal production so seriously
      weakened Pike’s safety culture that signs of the risk of an explosion either went unnoticed or were not heeded.}

      …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

      I would invite any right wing trolls to read the Royal Comission into Pike River themselves before they offer such bold and erroneous apologetic statements for their National partys stance in order to justify the lie that the mine cannot be entered or that safety standards were not the result of of a negligent management in the first place.

      There are vast resources to be found in the Royal Commission itself in establishing the ultimate responsibility for the disaster – , and there are many qualified mining officials from overseas and also locally who state unequivocally that Pike River is now safe to enter to conduct not only a forensic search as to the true causes of the disaster but also to recover the remains of its former workers.

      • Red 5.4.1

        Despite your rambling Nick Smith disagrees with your summation and the evidence he has is that the mine is unsafe to enter, end of story, safety first and ire on the side of caution

        • Clump_AKA Sam 5.4.1.1

          What experience do you have in underground mining?

          • Red 5.4.1.1.1

            None but I am sure nick smiths experts do, likewise his lawyers in regard to potential liability if anything went wrong

            • Clump_AKA Sam 5.4.1.1.1.1

              You’re supposed to have liability insurance so I don’t know why you mentioned that. What you’ve written here and other places on this web board has nothing to do with mining or the industry. For a better informed discussion I strongly suggest you go to this link (http://www.worksafe.govt.nz/worksafe/news/in-focus/pike-river/mining-regulations) read up a bit especially the 1999 regulations. The guides all been written out so any labour can come off the street, mine successfully and go home.

              • Red

                You can’t insure for liability under new OSH act, likewise there is criminal liability, yawn

                • Clump_AKA Sam

                  Now your talking about personal cover. I was talking about cover if you cause injury to others. Read through the link again

        • WILD KATIPO 5.4.1.2

          RED ,

          And ,…. that’s the same incompetent Nick Smith who was once busy running around screwing up on housing ???… when he couldn’t even get that right ????!!! … ( oh wait,… perhaps we can look to Paula Bennett and her $5000 to get out of Auckland free card- then another $1000 to come back and do it all again just for fun ) … and your ACTUALLY saying you would BELIEVE an incompetent lackey like that ?!!?

          Seriously ,… your inane comments are laughable if only in the manner you even try to call excerpts from the Royal Commission of inquiry ‘ RAMBLINGS’.

          Sonny , … your a joke.

          • Red 5.4.1.2.1

            One unrelated thing plus another unrelated thing must then predicate your arguement, great logic their, again I have no problem with your point if you are a conspiracy theorist, moon landing, twin towers, Chem trails and all that

    • Whispering Kate 5.5

      James – The PM is good for being a smart mouth with “show us the money” – well he should come clean and “show us the evidence about it being unsafe – who are these professionals/departments who gave him the evidence that it would be unsafe, then maybe we wouldn’t despise him for his lying and callousness which he is, oh so expert at dishing out.

      Like others on this blog site I believe he is covering up evidence at this crime site which is despicable.

      • Red 5.5.1

        Thus we are back to my original point conspiracy theories

        • WILD KATIPO 5.5.1.1

          L0L!…

          Soooo ,…. here is a right winger who not only believes the Royal Commission of inquiry into Pike River is ‘ RAMBLINGS ‘ ,… he is now a supreme mining expert who feels qualified to refute experienced and qualified mining officials from New Zealand , Australia and other overseas nations who have stated continuously that Pike River can be entered …. and then calls the findings of all those experts ‘ conspiracy theory’s ‘ .

          Perhaps the money issue for this Govt has something more to do with the motives rather than any issues of integrity and keeping a promise ,… you know the old story – ‘ wait until the whole thing blows over ‘ while directing the media to move on, downplay it , reduce and marginalize until the issue is only directly related to the individuals concerned.

          Meanwhile,… trolls like RED can sit behind their computers and post stupid, inane one liner remarks and feed off the process – just like a hookworm does in its parasitic life-cycle.

          And will the contractors who are paid to carry out this blocking of the evidence be subsidized by this Govt also?

          One would think the Govt has done a feasibility plan and concluded that its far cheaper to pay for a few square metres of concrete and rock ballast to make a wall than to actually do the right thing and recover the victims remains and risk potentially finding evidence that would incriminate those at fault – and embellish the findings of the Royal Commissions original findings even further about culpability and poor health and safety under this Government. .

          • Macro 5.5.1.1.1

            He’s the “rent a crowd” idiot for the day. The rest have been fired for incompetence. Red should be careful as he’s likely to be down the road too.

            We need better trolls.

            • Rosemary McDonald 5.5.1.1.1.1

              “He’s the “rent a crowd” idiot for the day. The rest have been fired for incompetence. Red should be careful as he’s likely to be down the road too.

              We need better trolls.”

              Thank you Macro!!!

              As soon as Red used the term ‘ramblings’ in relation to the excerpts from the Pike River Commission of Inquiry you should have realised WILD KATIPO you were not engaging with a person comfortable with reading more than three consecutive sentences.

              Don’t cast your pearls….

        • Whispering Kate 5.5.1.2

          Red you remind me of Shirley Valentine ‘you just talk shit” – don’t presume that I am a conspiracy theorist , you haven’t a clue who I am or what I believe – keep your rubbish comments to yourself please.

          • Macro 5.5.1.2.1

            Red spouts enough rubbish in one comment to fill a landfill.

          • Red 5.5.1.2.2

            Free world to presume what you want and vice versa there is a lot of presumption going on this blog, I am just presuming such presumptions are conspiracy theories or kDS , chill don’t take it personally 😀

        • Cinny 5.5.1.3

          RED, a conspiracy theorist is nothing more than a derogatory title used to dismiss a critical thinker.

          And if you dismiss a conspiracy theory without honestly researching it, that’s because it interferes with your comfort zone and your outlook on politics Red.

          Conspiracy theory is a convenient label for you to use Red when you have run out of argument and refuse to research any more information, even new information provided to you. It’s easier to switch off and give something a label than deal with reality.

          Are you enjoying basking in the attention you are getting Red? i betcha are.

          • ropata 5.5.1.3.1

            It’s not a conspiracy theory when there are 29 miners lying underground. It is the textbook example of a government cover up.

            I really don’t get National’s inertia on this, what are they afraid of?

            • Cinny 5.5.1.3.1.1

              Heading into the drift would enable the media to spotlight Pike again, informing the public of the past, something the outgoing government probably wants to just go away, it tugs at peoples heart strings, leading them to make emotional decisions such as not voting for National.

              Or do the lobbyists have something to do with the big picture…?

              When you can’t trust the government because they’ve been proven to lie, side step and loop hole exploit it’s bloody difficult to find a real answer, let alone believe anything they say.

  6. adam 6

    TO sum up red, the media have moved on so so should you.Funny when our media is still deep in dirty politics then I find that argument silly.

    OAB is a little man. Funny, OAB is a green voter not labour, so that barb was way off. But typical of rwnj on this site who have an obsession with the ‘left’ being homogeneous.

    Pike river is not news worthy (so many more disasters to talk about) , so we should forget it. Again a odd comment, but at this stage it’s only going to get weirder.

    It’s a safety, well duh it always has been!

    Again same barb at OAB – see above comment

    When challenged reaches for report we can’t read – winning argument that one.

    Calls anyone who opposed his opinion a conspiracy theorist, well losing the argument at this point so desperation is a must.

    Say’s nick smith knows best – odd I would not trust smith with children. Again is losing argument so straw clutching.

    Then unnamed expert – are we in lala land or what at this point.

    Feels real bad, so lashes out at so called conspiracy theorists.

    Finally knows his argument is a fail, goes on a whinge, and complains about people taking it personal.

    Wow Red, interesting stuff – I always thought you were a bit off. But this level of amoral high-jinx – even for you, is a bit low.

    Oh and by the way, no one wants to go down the shaft. They just want to to go in far enough to get the bodies back.

  7. Red 7

    To your points Adam

    All I am saying is story is old news in a sea of new tragedies thus hard to get purchase

    little man is nothing to do with labour OAB Just comes across to me as little man with a potty mouth

    nick smith does no best as he has more information than all of us and it’s is he who is on the hook if it goes wrong,

    At the end of the day everything is premumptious I just choose to trust the government here, you don’t, get over it

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1

      The government always knows best, eh. 🙄

      Watching this witless gimp twist and turn and lie for Dear Leader would be entertaining if it weren’t so nauseating.

      • DH 7.1.1

        “I just choose to trust the government here,”

        No you don’t Red, you’re not stupid mate. That they’ve put the village idiot onto it should be a giveaway even to staunch Nats. This all fails the logic test;

        From Nick Smith…

        “The mine is full of methane and is likely to have residual heat sources capable of triggering an explosion if there was a source of oxygen. There is the added risk of rockfalls,” he said.

        All irrelevant to re-entering the mine. If they use closed-circuit breathing apparatus they won’t be introducing any source of oxygen to the mine and rockfalls are a risk in any underground activity. I don’t see speleology being banned.

        “The mine had only one exit and that remained a fundamental flaw for the safety of any re-entry attempt.”

        A second exit is not a requirement for a re-entry, nor would it improve safety even if there was one. It looks like the man is making shit up.

  8. alwyn 8

    I have no doubt that some people contributing to this blog will describe me as a miserable, cynical …. etc etc.

    There is, in my opinion, not the slightest chance that Little will attempt to re-open and enter the mine if he should, god forbid, ever be in the PM’s chair.
    He is doing exactly what he is accusing John Key of doing. Andrew is giving the families of the miners a completely false hope.
    He claims it is safe to re-enter the mine. He claims that he will arrange the recovery of the bodies. He will never attempt such an action. He cannot have any guarantee of the safety of the people he would order into the mine and he, along with the Labour Party would never recover if anyone he sent into the drift, or the mine, was injured.

    If Andrew got into a position of power he would immediately find some reason not to carry out his “promise”. He would probably come out with a statement such as
    “It was safe in 2016 but the National Government sabotaged the shaft when they sealed it and now we can’t open it.”
    Something like that anyway but whatever it is he isn’t going to order someone into the drift to look for what would be 8 year old remains, assuming any can be found.
    He could not possibly recover from the report of someone being injured at that they had to be removed from the area because it was, as the Government says totally unsafe.

    Why does he feel he must give the families a totally false hope? Is he really such a vile person that he will say anything to try and make himself look good and the PM look bad?

    What is he going to say if the Government table their expert reports in Parliament that it is not safe. Can he really think he can get away with claiming he knows better?
    The man is a miserable fool for making the promises he is coming out with and giving the families of the 29 miners continued false hopes.

    • ropata 8.1

      You’re a miserable piece of work, this isn’t about politicking it’s about justice and closure for the miners and their families.

    • DH 8.2

      How about you not be such an accusing prat. For one it’s almost certainly possible to make the mine completely safe to enter*. That would just cost money so anyone who says it’s not safe is being rather duplicitous.

      *The mine can be re-ventilated, removing all the dangerous gases. They can re-ventilate the mine by drilling new shafts to calculated points of the mine and creating an airflow to suck all the gases out.

      If they really wanted to enter the mine they could do it. It’s not a matter of risk, it’s a matter of cost.

      • Clump_AKA Sam 8.2.1

        If it was me I’d flood the mine, go down the vent shaft, pump out each section as I went.

      • alwyn 8.2.2

        I shall reply to you as, apart from Wild Katipo most of the others are simply abuse without thought or relevance.
        You say ” it’s almost certainly possible to make the mine completely safe to enter”.
        You may be right. I’m not an engineer or a geologist so I am quite unqualified to comment on that. However there are experts who say it is not safe and cannot be made so.
        Little will not risk trying to put anyone into the mine, or the drift, while any such doubts exist. What would he do if there was an accident and someone was hurt or even killed? He could never answer accusations that he caused the injuries or death for political purposes. He, and his party would be politically dead.
        He has, in his statement, basically claimed that he would order people to enter the mine and recover the bodies. He also says there is no risk and that the mine is stable.
        He will apparently spend any amount of time, spend any amount of money and take any amount of risk with peoples lives to do this. I really don’t think he will actually go ahead with it. He simply won’t take any chance at all on something going wrong that would end up with him carrying the can

        • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2.2.1

          So according to your logic, Key and National take responsibility for all work related deaths and injuries, do they? On worm farms?

          Fact is it’s easy to care about workers’ lives when there are votes involved, eh. Frankly, if Key ordered a team in and they all died he’d hold a “solemn” memorial service and “honour” their “sacrifice” wrapped in the flag.

        • Clump_AKA Sam 8.2.2.2

          Engineers build bridges, geo’s take samples, miners fix up fuck ups

        • DH 8.2.2.3

          Oh stop being so precious alwyn, you’re not convincing here.

          Every day thousands of NZers are engaged in dangerous work and the Govt ‘orders’ many of them. I didn’t see Key being too bothered about lives when he sent NZ troops to Iraq, your argument about risk is sheer fallacy.

          It goes without saying that any attempt to enter the mine would only be undertaken if all parties involved are convinced, and satisfied, they have eliminated the risk to life and limb.

          If the Govt is so worried about negative publicity they can go the easy route and tender it out to the private sector.

          You’ve used an extremely weak argument to make a very strong attack on Andrew Little. It’s pretty pathetic.

    • dv 8.3

      The man is a miserable fool for making the promises he is coming out with and giving the families of the 29 miners continued false hopes.

      Good description of Key!!!

    • ALWYN

      You know perfectly well that the current issue IS NOT about Andrew Little or the Labour party but EVERYTHING to do with the Key led INCUMBENT govt.

      That you would try to divert the issue by claiming spurious political motives of Little and the Labour party’s statements regarding reentry into Pike River – and the bald faced assumptions flying in the face of the evidence and testimony of experienced and qualified mining experts who disagree with the govt’s stance and state the mine CAN be reentered …. demonstrates that you , along with your sycophantic National party colleagues on this blogsite are , in fact , simply using nothing more than crystal ball fear tactics to justify the sealing up and thus the denial of collection and collation of forensic evidence that most certainly would still exist in that mine.

      When John Key releases the information and disclosure of exactly WHO and what organisation is providing that ‘ expert’ mining information he is basing his decision on , – and thus stands open to expert and public critique of his sources , perhaps then you can make such bold assertions.

      Until then , the evidence still stands as it always has , – that the mine at Pike River CAN be reentered.

      • alwyn 8.4.1

        You say “the current issue IS NOT about Andrew Little”. The current issue is precisely about Andrew Little. It his statement we are talking about.
        My claim is simply that, should he get into power, Little will not order people to try and enter the mine while there is any disagreement between experts as to whether it is safe.

        As for “When John Key releases the information and disclosure of exactly WHO and what organisation is providing that ‘ expert’ mining information”.
        Yes I would like to see it released too, if it hasn’t already been done. However I would also like to see the evidence of the people you quote being released in equal detail. Does anything except statements of belief exist? So far it appears to be, on both sides, simple statements that “I think” vs “you think”.

        Neither Little, nor the present Government are going to risk being prosecuted for putting people into danger when there was reasonable doubt as to the safety of the mine. He will, if he should somehow get into a position of power fudge the issue and simply drop the whole thing.

        • WILD KATIPO 8.4.1.1

          I think you will find that Andrew Little will not ‘order’ anyone,… it will be more a case of going on advice gleaned from those who offer a feasible plan of operations first , perhaps as others here have suggested and definitely from those qualified to know.

          The primary difference is instead of the inertia and defeatism offered up by Key , Little says he will act on qualified expert opinions to get the job done.

          During the Strongman mine disaster, because it was a state run mining operation , the Govt was forced to pay around 230,000 pounds in compensation to affected family’s.

          Contrast that with Whittall … ” When he was finally charged with 29 counts of manslaughter, Worksafe did a secret deal with his insurance company the night before Court, allowing him to buy his way out of these severe criminal charges for $100k per head. He was immediately allowed to leave the country a free man. ” ,… and the original fine of $750,000 payable by Pike River company – which ended up by not paying anything at all…

          There is no doubt at all that skulduggery occurred in the above two examples, – and to add injury to insult to the victims family’s, – after having been pushed and pulled from pillar to post for 6 years, they have now been told the mine is to be sealed off , which as stated – will destroy any likelihood of ever gathering evidence for exactly what went wrong, who was ultimately responsible and most importantly – denying closure for the victims family’s and denying them a proper burial for their loved ones.

          If this is simply an issue about money – which undoubtedly some of it is – then there really isn’t any excuse to not start recovery operations. It was an obscenity for Key to talk of tax cuts recently when a recovery operation would only comprise a small fraction of that amount for example.

          However , if the real motives for literally burying this issue is one of political expediency and an avoidance of opening a can of worms in an upcoming election year, … then it would behoove this Govt to dispel all doubts and to start plans for a recovery operation.

          But they haven’t. They have done exactly the opposite.

          The onus therefore doesn’t lie with the public to prove or disprove , but this Govt. Particularly with Keys bold statements soon after the disaster, upon which he has since reneged. And even more so in light of the conflicting advice from as equally qualified sources as his so- called sources that the mine can be reentered.

          This is why I included the historic case of the Brunner coal mine disaster. There we can graphically see the machinations of those in positions of authority against those who had neither the political clout nor the finances to sustain legal proceedings ie : the miners and their family’s.

          That was over one hundred years ago ,… yet has striking similarity’s to what has happened over the Pike River issue. All credit due to the Commission of Inquiry held for Pike River however , inasmuch as when the issue of blaming the workers came up , ( as it did at Brunner 100 years before ) the Commission laid the ultimate blame at the feet primarily ,… of senior management instead.

          Feasible methods have been put forward for a safe recovery operation , yet have been ignored. And so the only two possible motives left to justify this stance is one of money and political face saving.

          • weka 8.4.1.1.1

            I thought the use of the word ‘order’ was telling. It creates the context for alwyn’s whole comment.

    • adam 8.5

      Wow alwyn, can you get anymore politically sleazy?

      Probably not.

      You just wanted to out do red on the raving ridiculous right (rrr) ah alwyn.

    • Cinny 8.6

      alwyn just because the outgoing PM has gone back on his promises on more than one occasion, does not mean the future PM will do the same.

      It’s really sad that you may well have become so normalised to the outgoing PMs lies that you feel that way, not all PM’s are consistent liars.

  9. And so ,…

    We have Pike River. And we find this from an earlier article on The Standard ,…

    Pike River anniversary: what have we become?

    Doug White and Peter Whittall, the men responsible for this worksite that just killed nearly its entire workforce, were effectively given control of the rescue. They insisted none be attempted, then after all reasonable hope was gone insisted the mine not be sealed, causing an inevitable series of massive explosions and fires.

    Peter Whittall was allowed to opt out of testifying to the Royal Commission because he might incriminate himself.

    When he was finally charged with 29 counts of manslaughter, Worksafe did a secret deal with his insurance company the night before Court, allowing him to buy his way out of these severe criminal charges for $100k per head. He was immediately allowed to leave the country a free man. ”

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    We now presumably live in the age of fairness , sophistication of legal due process and smugly assumed egalitarianism that excludes the possibility of repeats of the sort of corruption , elitism and class distinction that existed in the 19th century . And thus we satisfy ourselves that modern day ‘authority’ would never betray the confidence of the voter.

    But do we?

    Let us compare an historic case to events unfolding today over the tragedy of , and also the future of the Pike River mine …. and compare the attitudes and actions of the authority’s then and those of today … and then notice the similarity’s….

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    The Brunner Mine Disaster
    Thursday, March 26th, 1896

    wpeD.jpg (29762 bytes)

    To the memory of 65 men, their widows and families who were affected by this disaster.

    Thursday, March 26th 1896, dawned bright and clear after several days of incessant West Coast rain and strong winds. As they had done for some time prior to this day, the early shift at the Brunner Coal Mine, inland from Greymouth on the South Island’s West Coast, was preparing to enter the mine. It was 7:45am.

    On the hillside above much to the amusement of the miners, an impromptu comic opera was under way. Young Patrick McInerney had released the four pit ponies which were to accompany the miners underground that morning. Well fed and well cared for and of immense value in the narrow tunnels, the ponies had followed the miners underground in the past without a hint of fear. Perhaps in an instinctive premonition of danger, this time they commenced a wild-eyed snorting and stamping as they were chased towards the gaping mouth of the mine. Refusing to enter as they would normally have done quite placidly, the ponies turned and galloped back to their stable. It took some time for them to be coaxed into the mine entrance where their drivers awaited them. Turning their backs to the sunlight for the last time, ponies, drivers and miners entered the eternal night.

    Within 90 minutes, every living being underground in the Brunner Mine that day would be dead. Sixty five men and four ponies would die, either directly from the effects of the explosion or from the resulting suffocating and deadly gases that raced through the underground tunnels and shafts on their way to the surface.

    A muffled boom heard just after 9:00am followed by a strangely sinister cloud of dense grey smoke emanating from the mine entrance was the first indication that something was not right below. Having been informed by those working on the surface of these irregular events, the Mine Manager, James Bishop, and the Engineer, Bob Smith, not cognisant of the immediate dangers posed by doing so, rushed into the mine and down the incline to investigate. Almost immediately they were overcome by the deadly fumes which consisted, in part, of lethal carbon monoxide gas. When they failed to return, surface hands ran into the mine to rescue them. Both were unconscious but were later revived, owing their lives to those comrades who had ignored their own safety. Seeing the effects of the fumes from the mine, those topside with experience of such events, knew that there was now little hope for their comrades in the tunnels below.

    Between the time of the incident and 10:00am that same morning (barely 45 minutes), the telegraph wires throughout Westland had been humming with calls for help and assistance to mount a rescue operation. Answers were received from many of the surrounding townships and mines, all thinking perhaps, that were such an event to befall their community, they too would rely on the help of others. By 11:00am the mine entrance was surrounded by crowds of men, women and children. Many were from Brunner itself whilst many more had arrived by coach, train, steamer and on foot to help where they could. The men to go down the pit in an attempt to rescue anyone still alive and the women to comfort those in sorrow and grief. There was a fellowship here. Other miners knew that it was simply by the grace of God that they were not the ones laying dead down below.

    Work commenced almost immediately on building a “bratticed zig-zag track” (brattice is calico or canvas used to separate ventilation air from return air in a mine shaft) into the mine in an attempt to dispel the deadly gases. Heedless of their own safety, gangs of thirty men worked their way into the mine. In some cases their shifts underground were of less than half an hour before they were overcome by the fumes and trucked back to the surface to recover. Eventually, around a quarter of a mile from the entrance, the first bodies to be found were those of Pat MacDonald and Charles Baxter. Both were unconscious and when found to be still breathing were rushed to the surface. However, in their eagerness to save these lives, the brave rescuers made the fatal mistake of not attempting to revive them underground and, on being overcome by the fresh air, they were to breath their last.

    About a mile underground, near the dynamo, many badly battered bodies were found suggesting that this was the seat of the explosion. As the “rescuers” moved in their relays through the mine they could build a picture of the force, the fear and the terror of those final minutes underground. Some of those near the seat of the explosion had been flayed of their skin while others were found partially dismembered. A reflection of the tremendous force of the explosion was shown by the body of 20 year old David Hall which had been hurled almost 100 meters up the incline where he had been attending to the pump. This equated to an explosive force of 1,000 meters per second. Others, escaping the initial blast, had taken some quite extreme steps to avoid the deadly fumes. Some had tried laying down to take advantage of low-lying pockets of air, some like 45 year old Thomas Clarke had pressed themselves into crevices in the mine walls and others had wrapped themselves in remnants of the canvas “brattice”.

    Nothing was to spare them. Whatever the measures taken, nothing could stop the pervasive “after-damp” gases. There was no escape. The gas was driven by incredible force and the only way to escape was to out-run it………an impossible feat. An underground mine is a lattice-work of tunnels, some linking to others giving several fronts on which the gases could approach and yet others, known as “bords”, were dead-ends and had but one exit. The gases themselves would have done their lethal work swiftly. “After-damp” is a combination of all the gases produced after a mine explosion including “white-damp” and “black-damp”. “White-damp” is carbon monoxide, a deadly poison in small quantities while “black-damp” is carbon dioxide, non-combustible but capable of spreading like a suffocating blanket throughout the mine tunnels. It would have been a combination of these that was seen emanating from the mine opening shortly after the explosion and it was considered that within three minutes of the the explosion all life would have been extinguished.

    Throughout the day following the explosion, Friday March 27th, the weary gangs of men toiled in the dark, dirty and un-safe conditions of the mine to locate and bring out the bodies of their fellow miners. By 2:00pm all but one of the bodies, that of 36 year old Edward Stevens Kent, had been recovered. The search to locate Kent continued while his wife and three children waited daily at the mine entrance hoping beyond hope that a miracle may have happened and he had escaped alive. It was not until the morning of the following Tuesday, March 31st, that Mary Kent knew that her hopes had been in vain. Edward’s badly burned body was found under a large fall of rock. The register was now complete.

    Death is simply interested in the extinction of life and does not select its victims on the basis of age, nationality, family status or relationship. Of the sixty five who died that day, forty were family men leaving grieving widows and a total of 186 dependent children. Others, such as John Roberts (46), William John Roberts (22), Samuel Roberts (18) and David Roberts (15) were father and sons who had been part of the same early shift and yet others such as Joseph and Thomas McIvor (25 & 19 years respectively) were brothers. Many hailed from England, while some were Irish born and yet others traced their birth back to Scotland. Some, not many, were first generation New Zealanders, whilst one was from Lyon in France and one from Victoria, Australia. The oldest was 72 and the youngest, as we have seen, just 15. All the while, in the nearby Brunnerton Carpenters Shop, a gang of men led by Jack Temperley toiled hastily with weatherboard, saw and hammer. On Saturday, March 28th, a number of the victims were buried at Greymouth. On the Sunday many more were buried at Stillwater in individual family plots or in the mass grave that now holds 33 of the victims.

    The day following the disaster a Charitable Appeal was launched by the then Prime Minister, Richard John Seddon, who had been touring the West Coast at the time and went straight to Brunnerton on hearing the news. Throughout the country donations of money, clothing and toys were made by all those who felt sympathy for the victims – the wives and families of those who had died. In terms of money, the amount raised was £32, 957 13s 11d or 11s 3d per head of population in 1896. When compared to New Zealands most successful Telethon in 1981, this suggests that the population back then, when called on, was some 30 times more generous.

    Immediately following the final burials, a Coroners Inquest was held, headed by Coroner Henry Aldborough Stratford. The inquest, however, was to get off to a bad start and prove, in terms of a solution (ie in finding the reason for the explosion and therefore the reasons for the resulting deaths), inconclusive. It had long been known by local miners that the mine had insufficient ventilation and was dangerous in that it contained pockets of gas. The miners were willing to testify to this and that it was their belief that this was the reason for the explosion. Under the 1891 Coal Mines Act, half of the jurors at the inquest were required to be miners. None were. Two that had been selected by Constable Beattie were struck off by the Coroner “after he had made enquiries”. Complaints to Seddon fell on deaf ears as he was to state that the responsibility for the Inquest lay with Police and Coroner, not with the Government. Evidence that gas existed in the mine and that, in the belief of experienced miners, this was the cause of the explosion (the miners used “Colza-oil” lamps with a naked flame rather than “Davey Safety Lamps”) was either ruled inadmissible or cleverly discounted.

    The verdict of the Coroner’s Inquest was one thing. It would state, for better or worse, correctly or incorrectly, the conclusion as to the cause of death of the 65 Brunner miners. Following hard on its heels, however, was the Royal Commission of Inquiry. Wielding more authority, it was hoped that the Royal Commission would determine culpability and responsibility for events leading to the explosion and for the explosion itself. While the avenues able to be followed by the Coroners Inquiry were also full of the same legal entitlements (and moral requirements), much effort at that time had been focussed on researching “facts” for the Royal Commission. Matthew Batty, a wonderfully outspoken pioneer miner at the Brunner Mine, was to state before the beginning of the hearing “it is well known that the experts’ verdict is that no-one living is to blame”. It seemed that there was no cognisance of the fact that miners were sent into a mine with a known existence of combustible gas and with naked-flame lights.

    The Royal Commission of Inquiry began on May 7th, 1896 amid local suspicion as to its composition. Headed by Dudly Robert Ward, a District Court Judge from Christchurch, the Commission was made up of Sir James Hector, Head of the Geological Service and known to be unsympathetic to miners, Joseph Proud a certified mine manager and Thomas Skellon, described as a Huntly “coal miner” but who was unknown to the miners from Brunnerton. The Premier had asserted, to the disbelief of the Brunner community, that their interests would be “ably represented” by Proud and Skellon. It was claimed that the absence of “working miners” on the Inquiry board would mean “that there would be no genuineness in the Royal Commission proceedings”.

    Throughout the course of the Royal Commission, the beliefs of the miners were at odds with the Commissions conclusions and the witnesses that it called. Again, Matthew Batty, the miners advocate, was to give expression to the general feeling amongst the miners that there was little value in the Royal Commission. He was also critical of Prime Minister Seddon’s meddlesome interest in the Commission and his “toadying to the big bug and capitalist”. He made slighted comment as to the way Seddon was seen to have changed (Seddon had been a miner before the heady days of his political career) when he said “the slaughter of 65 valuable lives will long be remembered as having occurred under this working man’s Government”. Batty was more critical, however, of Sir James Hectors appointment. Of Hector he was reported to say “He can hardly fail to lean with the Government” and “the poor colliers will be all alone in black damp”. This was a pointed reference to the deaths of the miners and that it was felt that they were all alone with no representation. Batty’s main concern was for those left dependent as a result of the accident. The widows and children of the dead miners who were “…at our backs crying for justice…”. While those well able to defend themselves (the mine managers and officials) in an articulate manner continued their infighting, bickering and power-plays, defending themselves at the expense of anyone else, the miners were left to represent themselves. Indeed one of the central weaknesses in the airing of the miners’ case was the absence of adequate representation because of lack of money. Of the Commissioners it has been said that “…they asked the questions they wanted to ask and heard the answers they wanted to hear and that these were decided mainly by socio-political considerations.”

    Claims were made, accusations flew and opinions were formed. It was up to the Commissioners to bring down a judgement. Enough said. It was the belief of the Commissioners and those who spoke from a position of authority that “…the primary cause of the explosion was a blown out shot (an explosive charge that had misfired and ignited coal dust or gases in the mine; ie the fault of the victims) …. fired by a person unknown…. contrary to the rules of the mine, in a part of the mine where no work should have been in progress…”. It was unfortunate that no-one could, in truth, testify for or against this assertion. No evidence of work being undertaken in the part of the mine where this occurred was found. But, all the witnesses were dead. They had died in the mine as a direct result of the supposed lack of judgement. A tidy package indeed. The miners knew, however, from their experience that the explosion was caused by firedamp (a mixture of methane and air which could be ignited by a naked flame). They had known for some time that Brunner coal gave off gas and that there were pockets in the mine. The miners had used naked-flame lamps. They had no choice. However in the recovery photographs displayed at the time, the miners held high their Davey Safety Lamps. The implication was obvious.

    Following the results of the Royal Commission and the Coroners Inquiry dissatisfaction with the verdicts still remained. Two writs were brought against the “Greymouth and Point Elizabeth Railway and Coal Company”, alleging negligence. One was brought by Mary McIvor concerning her two sons killed in the incident and the other by George & Sarah Geoghegan on behalf of their son James. Of his action George said “I did all I could to raise the wind, to have the action fought, to get the breath of the jury on it. I did not succeed. There was only one who had any spark to come in and test the case.” This was 51 year old Mary McIvor widowed in 1890, who had not only lost her two sons in the disaster but also the family income that they provided.

    The trial began on March 26th 1897, the first anniversary of the disaster. The proceedings consisted of the usual to-and-fro of accusation and counter-accusation, insinuation and censure. Early in the proceedings the miners advocate and representative Mr Jellicoe was (rightly or wrongly) suspended for contempt and subsequently found guilty of that charge. The potential of this was that, once more, the miners would be left without representation. The blown-out-shot theory which was the verdict of the Royal Commission was not this time genuinely supported by anyone. Even those who had spoken out for it at the Commission had “changed their minds”. Other theories were put forward, all of which laid the blame squarely (if not fairly) at the feet of the miners. Natural events and a person or persons unknown had created the conditions that led to the explosion and the subsequent deadly gas. In any event, this person was now dead and the evidence extracted from the mine was inconclusive.

    Throughout the course of the trial, Justice Denniston had been particularly remiss in offering guidance and interpretation on points of law to the jury. Indeed the focus of the trial had been on the question of cause rather than that of negligence. This negated the need for Denniston to offer his learned help to the jury. Of him it has been said that “Judge Denniston was insecure in some of his judgements and was often, during his career to express the wish to have other judges join him in giving decisions.” What hope, then, the miners? In his summing up of the trial before the jury retired, Denniston indicated that an acceptable verdict would be that “…the accident must have occurred by some unforseen and not reasonably foreseeable occurrence…”. What hope, then, the jurors? After 3 hours of deliberation, they were unable to reach a verdict.

    There were to be future appeals and investigations but nothing would finally decide the cause of and culpability for the disaster. The whole sorry episode was perhaps best summed up by the Editor of the West Coast Times who prophetically wrote “It would seem to us that the history of this disaster and the conditions surrounding has not been written yet.”

    Let this piece, then, speak on behalf of those miners and their families who were so wronged.

    • ropata 9.1

      Brilliant piece, thanks for sharing. IMHO the cause (as usual) was a culture of profit before people and safety.

      See also: Dreamworld ; Pike River ; Libby, Montana ; The Colorado River ; The fracking industry ; The Dakota Access pipeline ; The dairy industry & poisoning of Hawkes Bay residents

  10. Neil 10

    Of course Little will keep his promise, Little is an honorable man.

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