The right wing of politics likes to moan and wail about all forms of “red tape” and regulation. History frequently shows them to be fools. It’s not always easy finding the balance, but a healthy dose of sensible regulation is essential for the smooth running of our complex economies and societies. Deregulate, and all that is left is the short term profit motive.
Major case in point, the recent global financial crisis, which had its origins in the deregulation of the American financial markets. For the New Zealand example which is going to be a crippling drain on our economy, the $22 Billion leaky homes disaster, a legacy of the last National government’s deregulation of building industry codes. And how’s that deregulated electricity industry working out? Is competition lowering your bills? No, mine neither.
Now deregulation is being identified as the underlying cause of the Pike River disaster. This has already been commented on in the international media: “A DECISION to relax mining regulations a decade ago has put the New Zealand government in the firing line ahead of a royal commission of inquiry into the collapsed Pike River mine”. Testimony at the inquiry yesterday further strengthened this claim:
Safety changes led to Pike River explosion
The explosion that ripped through Pike River mine last year had its origin in changes to mining regulations in the 1990s, a former chief inspector of coal mines told the Royal Commission into the tragedy today.
The commission is inquiring into the disaster at the West Coast coal mine in November last year which left 29 miners and contractors dead.
Giving evidence this morning, former chief inspector of coal mines Robin Hughes, who has over 40 years of coal mining experience, criticised mine safety changes made by the National Government in the 1990s.
“The explosion at Pike River mine..had its origins in the repealing of the Coal Mining Act and regulations in 1993,” Mr Hughes said.
“The unwillingness of government officials up to and including the Prime Minister of the day to act on advice offered by a number of individuals resulted in the loss of a robust coal mines inspectorate, staffed by the most experienced and skilled personnel available.
Remember this the next time we hear rhetoric about “streamlining” regulations (such as the RMA), or “cutting through red tape”. In most cases that red tape is there for a good reason. Cutting through it might make things seem easier for a while. It might make someone a bit of money. But further down the line, when the true costs come to light, long after the people who made the stupid decisions are gone, somebody else has to pick up the bill. And sometimes the cost is high.
RIP Pike River miners.