Written By: - Date published: 8:31 am, November 21st, 2017 - 182 comments
Categories: Amy Adams, Andrew Little, health and safety, jacinda ardern, labour, making shit up, Mining, national, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, Unions, workers' rights, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: #standwithpike, pike river, Remembering the Pike River miners
Andrew Little has been performing some outstanding work in his new minister’s role. He has already made some significant decisions, decided that justice for Teina Pora required an increase payment, and has met with Ngāpuhi in an effort to get its treaty claim back on track.
And he has sped up Government action in trying to find out what happened at Pike River.
From Radio New Zealand:
A new stand-alone government agency will be established in January, to start planning for a manned re-entry into the drift of the Pike River Mine.
The department – which will have budget of up to $23 million over three years – has been announced this afternoon by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little, the minister responsible for the issue.
The Pike River Recovery Agency – Te Kahui Whakamana Rua Tekau ma Iwa – would be tasked with coming up with a plan to have the re-entry completed by March 2019.
Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of the Pike River Mine disaster, in which 29 people were killed.
Ms Ardern said the agency would be working with the families of the 29 miners killed in the 2010 explosions on decisions about re-entering the mine.
“We’re giving them the committment we’re doing everything within our power to try, and that’s all they’ve ever asked from us,” she said.
The re-entry plan would involve going in to a previously unexplored 400 metre section of the drift.
The purpose of that would be to gather evidence to help put together a better picture of what happened at the mine in the lead-up to the explosions and in the aftermath, to prevent a repeat.
Little has taken an active approach to the issue since day one when he was head of what is now Etu Union.
National is criticising him for now not promising a manned entry of the mine no matter what and for not continuing its plan for a robot entry of the mine. But such criticism is ludicrous.
Again from Radio New Zealand:
Mr Little said the final decision about whether the re-entry would go ahead would rest with him.
He said the normal risk and hazard assessments would take place and his decision would be based on advice from the agency – which would be peer reviewed – as well as an independent advisor.
Ms Ardern said the government did not believe at this stage that any changes to health and safety legislation needed to be made to execute the re-entry.
Meanwhile, Ms Ardern has also scrapped current plans to send in a robot into the mine, which was due to be sent in by Christmas.
“Our view was that the evidence that sat behind that exercise doesn’t stack up and we should focus our efforts, energy and resources into a manned entry.”
This was not a surprising move, as Mr Little said earlier this month the plan, directed by the previous National-led goverment and Solid Energy, was an unfair “experiment ” on the families.
National is trying to say that Labour has now adopted National’s position and there is no difference. From Stuff:
National workplace relations spokeswoman Amy Adams said the government had “wound back” its promises, from both prior to the election and in recent weeks.
“This approach closely reflects the view of the previous government – that safety is paramount.”
The Government recognised it could not waive health and safety laws, rush or force a re-entry, Adams said.
“The National Party continues to support re-entry, if it can be safely achieved and I would encourage the Government to listen to the experts.”
But the Pike River families is having none of this criticism. The big differences are that instead of being excluded the families will have a significant part in the decision making process and at least now proactive action is being taken. Again from Stuff:
Pike River family spokesman Bernie Monk, who lost his son Michael in the disaster, said the families could not ask for more than what the new government had done.
“After seven years of stalling and of being fobbed off by the last government, we’re now making great strides towards re-entering the drift and recovering remains and evidence,” he said.
“This is really important to us, but it is also important to all of New Zealand, we should not be a country where a crime-scene goes unexamined for seven years.”
While other family members were excited by Monday’s announcement, Monk said it was bitter sweet – this progress could have been made a long time ago.
“There will be no celebration here until the job is done,” he said.
Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton died in the mine, has said the families didn’t take this lightly.
“We’ve all lost loved ones so we know what that feels like to lose a loved one in a workplace accident. So we don’t want anyone to risk their lives going into a mine to retrieve our loved ones’ remains.”
But expert advice to date said a manned entry was possible.
Osborne said the involvement of family members in the creation of the agency showed the job would be done properly.
“This is a transparent and inclusive process and we’ve made it clear that safety comes first.”
Sonya Rockhouse, who lost her son Ben in the mine, said it really felt like they’d hit the ground running.
I am not surprised that National is trying to spin this. What has happened is a travesty. As a minimum there should have been a proper investigation of what happened and a real prosecution should have happened. As a country we owe it to the Pike River families to find out what really happened.