An excellent piece by Pike River mum, Sonya Rockhouse, in today’s Sunday Star-Times. The full article is here, but here are some of the most important points:
Four months ago, we’d pretty much lost hope of ever getting justice for what happened to our boys at Pike River. The Government was going to permanently seal the mine, and we’d lost our case for a judicial review of (Former Pike River Coal chief executive) Peter Whittall’s dirty deal with Worksafe. It looked like the man in charge when 29 husbands, sons and fathers died would walk away scot-free – and any evidence telling us what happened on that awful day in 2010 would be sealed away forever with the bodies of our loved ones.
Anna Osborne and I decided we’d give it one last shot. We wanted our boys to know we’d done our best to get justice for them. We towed a caravan up to the Pike River Mine road, a desolate, raw place surrounded by thick, primitive, bush.
What we wanted was simple then, and it’s simple now. Don’t seal the mine until the drift – the 2.3km entrance tunnel leading to the mine – is explored.
This is one of the main points family have been making. Looking at the Government’s repeated use of the word “mine” it’s hard not to draw the conclusion Nick Smith et al are deliberately muddying the waters to stop re-entry.
At the select committee just a week and a half ago, Solid Energy was forced to admit there may be bodies in the drift. There may even be a drift runner – a transport vehicle used by men who were changing shift when the first explosion happened.
If this is the case there are serious questions to ask about the police stopping mines rescue going in immediately after the first explosion.
This isn’t some pipe-dream of grieving families, and we’re sick of people talking down to us like it is. We’ve known since 2011 the main workings of the mine are too dangerous to explore. But the drift can be made safe to re-enter.
Dave Creedy, vice chair of the UN group of coal mine methane, has worked with Bob Stevenson, another renowned international expert, on a plan to do it. Tony Forster, the former Chief Inspector of Mines, and Robyn Hughes, Solid Energy’s own expert and former manager of the Pike River recovery, say it can be done. Another half-dozen international mining and mines rescue experts agree with them.
We want justice. We’ve gone way beyond what we should have to prove it can be achieved. The Prime Minister’s offer of further remote exploration of the drift is welcome, but drones can’t recover bodies, and after six years of stalling we won’t let the Government kick for touch again. That’s why our experts are working on a timeline to get it done as soon as possible. And that’s why we want an independent, transparent review of the plan to get into the drift. It’s not hard. Just get our experts and Solid Energy’s experts around the table and work it out.
This is an option the Government should have taken right at the start. That they are still refusing an independent review beggars belief.