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Pike River families win a “political reality”

Written By: - Date published: 7:55 am, October 6th, 2017 - 90 comments
Categories: disaster, election 2017, Mining - Tags: , ,

Among the biggest winners of the election will be the Pike River families (Newshub):

‘We’re going to get into that drift’: Pike River families buoyant after meeting Winston Peters, Jacinda Ardern

The Pike River families say for the first time in seven years, they have hope.

Representatives including Bernie Monk, Sonya Rockhouse and Anna Osborne met with NZ First leader Winston Peters on Thursday morning, where he reaffirmed his promise of a manned re-entry and recovery of the bodies.

The likelihood of that happening is greater if Mr Peters sides with Labour and the Greens, the families believe, because both parties have already promised re-entry. They met with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday, but in seven years, say they’ve never sat down with anyone from National.

“Every time we’ve been up here, they’ve always found a way not to meet us,” said Mr Monk.

Patrick Gower is scathing about National:

“The National Government tried to put concrete down that mine… we will now see the character of Bill English and all the other people in the Beehive who tried to stop [going back into the mine]. They’ve probably, already in their minds, agreed to letting men go back into the Pike River drift.

“They will not go into Opposition over this… They will literally go back on everything they’ve said in order to get Winston into power. They’ll go back into Pike River… It’s hugely embarrassing.”

90 comments on “Pike River families win a “political reality””

  1. Interesting comment by Gower at the end of the article. Makes one wonder indeed. However , for the Pike River family’s ,- and all NZ workers , – it looks as if justice will be done under a Labour , Greens , NZ First govt. One more good reason to hope for that to happen.

    • cleangreen 1.1

      100% WK,
      “it looks as if justice will be done under a Labour , Greens , NZ First govt. One more good reason to hope for that to happen.”

      We need to pray for this indeed, as NZ is now on a fragile point of savour or destruction if it does not happen..
      Winston knows this and I hope Greens and Labour do to.

      I recall what National called West Coast people during the 2014 election. I cant repeat that awful phase of in-humanity Nasty Nat’s called our West coast cousins.

      But it serves to remind us all how National views us all as. “sub-human” is my feeling Nat’s consider us as.

  2. Doogs 2

    Sandra Lee saying this morning that he won’t go with L/GP unless the margin is greater than 61. What does she know that we don’t? Probably that Winnie wants stability more than doing what he says for people. Yes, the Natzis will do absolutely ANYTHING to retain power. Fingers crossed everyone!

    • weka 2.1

      I’m guessing she is expressing opinion rather than having insider knowledge of Peters’ intentions.

  3. When they go in I hope it allows those families to get what they want and what they need.

    • Incognito 3.2

      I hope so too! They’d want answers but I think it is highly likely that what they’ll find will raise more questions and may in fact lead further away from achieving some kind of ‘closure’ though …

  4. Sparky 4

    This is shameful and yet another reason to say goodbye to the current government.

    • Wensleydale 4.1

      Not that we need another reason, but anyone who can’t see that they’re prepared to sell their own grandmothers to stay in power is willfully deluded.

  5. Infused 5

    Yeah I call bullshit on that

    Gower is a douche bag

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      Would you settle for National never getting the chance to prove him wrong?

      You didn’t call Hooton a douchebag when he pointed out they have no principles.

    • Wensleydale 5.2

      And yet when Gower’s gleefully putting the boot into Labour, you seem to regard him as the Oracle of Delphi. Funny how that works.

      • garibaldi 5.2.1

        “Oracle of Delphi”? Not so Wensleydale, I think we can all agree that Gower is a total dipstick.

  6. cleangreen 6

    Infused = confused.

  7. eco Maori/kiwi 7

    Kia Kaha pike river family’s

  8. weka 8

    Have National started backtracking on their Pike River position since the election?

    • veutoviper 8.1

      Not as far as I have observed. I have seen nothing from National since the election until this morning when Paula Bennett appeared on the AM show along with Kelvin Davis. (I think they have a regular joint spot with Duncan Garner but I do not usually watch the AM show.)

      http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/election/2017/10/limited-relationship-behind-paula-bennett-s-absence-from-peters-meeting.html

      A lot of fluffies in the interview but also some very detailed discussion re Pike River from about 5mins to about 7.45min.

      Kelvin basically reinterates Labour’s commitment re possible manned re-entry, and Paula seems to stand by National’s stance over the last few months that Solid Energy are looking at a non-manned robot re-entry before Christmas, safety is all important etc, etc. Possibly a slight softening on her part compared to some of English’ statements over recent months but no real change IMO.

      • weka 8.1.1

        ta. I was wondering if National don’t want re-entry because it will open up the possibility of further investigation into what happened, and they don’t want that looked into. Which puts them in a rock and a hard place now.

        • veutoviper 8.1.1.1

          Exactly why, in many peoples’ opinions, National don’t want re-entry. There are far too many outstanding questions about the whole handling of safety in the mine before the disaster, and the actions taken or not taken at the time and afterwards.

          I have no doubts that there is much more to come out into the open in the not too distant future, including the decision of the Supreme Court on this week’s appeal re the ‘deal’ on the dropping of charges against Whittall.

          The timing of this week’s Supreme Court appeal hearing is obviously coincidental to the hiatus etc of the election preliminary outcome, but could not have come at a better time in some respects.

        • James Brown 8.1.1.2

          Nats clearly don’t want anyone back in the mine and what if it was found that some of the miners survived the initial blast and no-one ever went in to get them?
          Not sure if this is possibility but if it is would go a long way to explain their trying to get the entrance concreted in.

      • tracey 8.1.2

        What is the upshot of that recent video? The one that English said the families had seen but they said they had not?

        • veutoviper 8.1.2.1

          I am not sure, Tracey.

          My vague memories are that English, Solid Energy etc said that the video had been part of the evidence etc given to the Inquiry and the families at that time. OTOH the families and their lawyers etc said that it had not. In effect, a stalemate situation.

          This is just an assumption on my part, but it may be that this issue was put to one side for the moment (but not forgotten) while other issues/paths were being pursued such as the appeal to the Supreme Court against the ‘deal ‘on dropping the charges against Whitall et al.

  9. tsmithfield 9

    No disrespect to the Pike River families who have endured a lot, and are obviously looking for closure on this issue.

    However, I don’t think it is worth the health and safety risk to those involved in a recovery when it is a case of unburying dead people to bury them somewhere else. If it was to rescue living people, then that would be different.

    I understand that the atmosphere in the mine is now inert. So, there probably isn’t a risk of explosion in reentry. However, no-one can be sure about the geological stability of the mine after such a long time and all the explosions. What if people were to go in with only the bottled air they carry, and there was a collapse that trapped them inside the mine? Their air would quickly run out, and they would probably die before they could be rescued.

    It seems ironic to me that the Pike River mine case was used for strengthening health and safety laws, and now political parties are willing to waive those same laws, and put lives at risk for the sake of political expediency.

    I just hope that none of the politicians promoting this idea end up with blood on their hands over it.

    • Stuart Munro 9.1

      Thing is there’s more at stake than just retrieving the bodies. A careful re-entry will tell us a lot about the whole debacle.

      • tsmithfield 9.1.1

        Maybe, or maybe not. There have been a number of explosions, and the effects of the passage of time that would likely make it very difficult to draw conclusions much beyond what is already known.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1.1

          So you think that rushing into every single section of the mine as quickly as possible is probably inadvisable?

          Damn 🙄

      • nzsage 9.1.2

        I suspect you’re right Stuart and that is the very reason the Natz have vehemently refused to re-enter the mine.

    • So you don’t think it it worth the health and safety risk. I’m sure volunteers could be asked for or is that not good enough either. You’re clueless.

      • tsmithfield 9.2.1

        Except that wouldn’t wash in any other circumstances. Health and Safety laws still apply whether people are volunteering or not. I imagine that the families of the recovery people would not be impressed by the fact that they were allowed to go in as volunteers if they ended up getting killed as a result.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.2.1.1

          It’s one small step for man, way too difficult for Tsmithfield.

        • weka 9.2.1.2

          What Health and Safety laws apply to volunteers?

          If people choose to go into the mine, that’s between them and their families and doesn’t really have anything to do with you. It’s not like people are intending to be reckless.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 9.2.1.2.1

            It’s private property. National’s changes to H&S legislation have some rather perverse outcomes in this regard.

            Then again, every single other piece of legislation they passed will probably need repeal or amendment too.

            It’s a can of worm farms.

            • weka 9.2.1.2.1.1

              So if it was on public land it wouldn’t be an issue? Am trying to think of an analogous situation. Maybe recovering bodies from a shipwreck?

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Rock climbing. Kayaking. Skiing. Martial Arts, Gymnastics, Speleology, Mountaineering…

                Any activity that involves objective danger and risk assessment. Tsmithfield National’s position looks like hollow avoidance.

                • weka

                  Yes, I was thinking about SAR too, but not sure what if any legislation covers them.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Health and Safety at Work Act: volunteers are exempt from Part 3 (Worker engagement, participation, and representation), but all other parts apply.

                    I wonder if Tsmithfield has read the Act, considering that it has specific provisions for recovery of bodies.

                    Subpart 5—Duties to preserve sites and notify notifiable events
                    55 Duty to preserve sites
                    (1)
                    A PCBU (Person Conducting Business (or) Undertaking) who manages or controls a workplace at which a notifiable event has occurred must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the site where the event occurred is not disturbed until authorised by an inspector.
                    (2)
                    Subsection (1) does not prevent any action—
                    (a)
                    to assist an injured person; or
                    (b)
                    to remove a deceased person

                    My bold.

                    • McFlock

                      That doesn’t exempt them from safety requirements, just the scene preservation requirements.

                      What’s under discussion is the concept that making your way into a gassy mine is unacceptably unsafe. By that logic I would have thought all underground mining and tunnelling in NZ has been banned.

                    • weka

                      who decides what is unacceptably unsafe? (I assume it’s not defined in the Act).

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      The onus in inherently unsafe situations is “to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.”

                      “Reasonably practical” is defined in S.22:

                      Meaning of reasonably practicable

                      In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, reasonably practicable, in relation to a duty of a PCBU set out in subpart 2 of Part 2, means that which is, or was, at a particular time, reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters, including—
                      (a)
                      the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring; and
                      (b)
                      the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or risk; and
                      (c)
                      what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about—
                      (i)
                      the hazard or risk; and
                      (ii)
                      ways of eliminating or minimising the risk; and
                      (d)
                      the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
                      (e)
                      after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

                      All we need now is a definition of “grossly disproportionate” 🙄

          • tsmithfield 9.2.1.2.2

            And I haven’t said anything about those who go in being responsible. Its those who let them in. Sort of like when the department of conservation was prosecuted for the Cave Creek disaster even though people stood “voluntarily” on the platform.

            • weka 9.2.1.2.2.1

              Thanks for making it clear how ridiculous your argument is.

              Cave Creek was the general public using a structure that they were utterly unaware was dangerous and that should have been safe for anyone even a child to be using.

              Pike River is a situation with known safety issues that can be planned around and mitigated and the only people who will have access are those that are trained for that work and who have done a risk assessment.

              Those two situations are not comparable.

              • tsmithfield

                Just responding to your equally ridiculous argument that volunteers aren’t bound by the act (which is true) when I had been arguing all along that it is those responsible for access to the environment are culpable.

                The fact is it isn’t public land at the moment.

                Therefore, if politicians change its status for the specific purpose of avoiding health and safety legislation, and those people are hurt as a result, then those who changed the law are directly responsible for the outcome. They should be arrested IMO.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Along with everyone who voted for deployment to Afghanistan, for exactly the same reason.

                  Oh noes, your argument is a thin tissue of sophistry and double standards.

                • weka

                  “Just responding to your equally ridiculous argument that volunteers aren’t bound by the act (which is true) when I had been arguing all along that it is those responsible for access to the environment are culpable.”

                  I haven’t argued that, I’ve asked about it.

                  Still don’t understand why you used Cave Creek as an example.

                  • tsmithfield

                    Because an organisation is responsible for the environment it maintains. If anyone is hurt because the organisation hasn’t made its environment safe, then that organisation is responsible. It doesn’t matter if the people hurt are volunteers or not.

                    For example, if a Ski Field were to not adequately warn and signpost when they are aware of a avalanche hazard in a certain area, and there is an avalanche that kills paid people and volunteers, it is ludicrous to suggest they would only be found guilty for the death of the paid people.

                    If the health and safety act doesn’t apply to employers who use volunteers, then there is nothing to stop volunteers going into the mine now.

                    My argument is that if the government removes the health and safety liability to the organisation to enable re-entry, then the government has basically assumed, at least morally, that liability themselves.

                    • weka

                      Comparison still fails because literally no-one is saying that the Pike River entry should be done unsafely.

                    • tsmithfield

                      If that is the case, then why abandon the health and safety act? If it can be made safe, then by definition there is no conflict with the health and safety act.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Someone suggested abandoning the Act?

                      [citation needed]

                      The preposition that it requires amendment to allow reentry comes from the lying mouth of Bill English. In the serendipitous event that his story turns out to be accurate, amendment, not abandonment, would suffice.

                      So who is calling for abandonment? Or are you just pulling an English?

              • tsmithfield

                If the risks can be “planned and mitigated” there is no need to void the Health and Safety Act because that is precisely what the Health and Safety Act requires.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  The story about the Act having to be amended came from the National Party. No wonder it’s bullshit.

                  • tsmithfield

                    So, there is no need to do away with the H&S Act then?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Did someone suggest that?

                    • McFlock

                      Probably not, but then it’s also perfectly feasible to exclude this case from the act or indeed alter the act to include something like “informed acceptance of hazards” in cases involving rescue or recovery of people and human remains, or to gather evidence for criminal, coronial, or other investigations.

                      So your little concern digression at comment 9 is about as reliable as a promise from Key.

            • marty mars 9.2.1.2.2.2

              No not sort of like that at all. You are really going low imo.

            • McFlock 9.2.1.2.2.3

              So if the government of next month wants to go int to Pike River, the health and safety legislation would be a barrier?

              Gosh. Isn’t it lucky that the government writes the laws. If they can change employment law at the request of hollywood, they can fucking allow this. And that’s if the hazards weren’t manageable under current mining H&S.

              • Mickey Boyle

                I was always under the impression that not all the Pike River families wanted re-entry into the mine, and in fact some of the families wanted it to remain a sealed memorial to their family members, is this not true?, is there now a consensus to re-enter?.

                • McFlock

                  Were you? That’s nice. Where do you stand on investigating the causes of a disaster? Seeking evidence to rule out criminal conduct? Should that be left up to families, too?

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  The numbers are unclear. “Some” is the usual figure cited in the media. Should their wishes be allowed to over-ride the equally valid wishes of the majority, or prevent a crime scene investigation?

                  • Mickey Boyle

                    Absolutely not, but either should those who want re-entry be allowed to over-ride these families wishes. There are ways to investigate the scene and leave their loved ones in there if that is their wish. I’m not associated with anyone who lost a loved one in Pike River, im simply asking questions.

                    • McFlock

                      Thank goodness. I thought you were simply flailing around for reasons to avoid doing anything.

                    • Mickey Boyle

                      Oh you’re one of those commentators….thanks.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Funny how so many right wingers simultaneously thirst for knowledge and yet remain utterly enthralled by the party line.

                      Almost as though the questions are asked in cynical bad faith or something.

                    • McFlock

                      It’s pretty simple: if the only issue was “recovery or leave them there as a memorial”, hell, take a vote of the families.

                      But it’s not. Recovery is a major reason for it, but the potential evidence down there is also significant. For example, if gas detectors were tampered with and one is recovered, there might be evidence as to who tampered with it. Direct criminal culpability. If rescue chambers were decommissioned but reported as operational, direct criminal culpability.

                      Lessons can always be learned.

          • tracey 9.2.1.2.3

            Volunteers are covered by Health and Safety Laws so the owners of the mine are responsible/liable for anyone going into that mine.

            • Andre 9.2.1.2.3.1

              If the owners were to gift the mine and surrounds to the public to become, say, the Pike River Memorial Park, does that change the Health and Safety legal situation for mine expert volunteers that wish to go in?

              • tracey

                In my opinion it would place the onus of taking care of those volunteers on the new owners… Crown or DOC.

                I am pretty sure people cannot sign a waiver to excuse an owner from liability.

                It is ironic that appalling h and s in the name of corp greed led to this disaster and the new H and S Act and now it may stand in the way of reentry. Robots of course that is another matter entirely.

                • Andre

                  So does that now have implications for volunteer search and rescue operations in other hazardous public areas? For instance, in the gorges of the Kaituna river where the only people with the expertise that could possibly search with a reasonable risk level are top-level kayakers? It’s way too narrow for a helicopter, too hazardous for any other watercraft, access to the top of the gorge very difficult so abseilling in isn’t practical? Or caving as another instance?

                  • tracey

                    My understanding is that it is about what you put in place to limit risk not necessarily remove all risk.

                    • Andre

                      If it were public land, and a group of acknowledged mine experts turned up with their own equipment wanting to go in and said they had the expertise to assess and mitigate the risks as they went in, and that there was nothing that could reasonably be done outside to reduce risk before entering, would that meet the requirements?

                      Where I’m coming from is in my younger days I was involved in several river search and rescues with my mates that involved significant risk (though not as much risk as we took on for recreational pleasure, to be sure). At the time we were among the top kayakers in NZ, and we certainly would have had a very bad reaction to some jobsworth with no river expertise turning up trying to stop us doing a search (and hopefully rescue) by quoting some sort of health and safety act.

        • tracey 9.2.1.3

          I suspect they would have discussed consequences with family before voluntaring.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.3

      Apart from all the other reasons, the mine is a crime scene. Does that help you understand why it’s important?

      • tsmithfield 9.3.1

        So, how would you feel if you personally suspended health and safety laws, let people go in, and they got killed as a result? Surely, you would be guilty of manslaughter for doing so as they wouldn’t have got killed otherwise.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.3.1.1

          I’m not sure what your point is: apparently it’s ok for health and safety legislation to not apply to dairy farms, but crime scenes are just beyond the pale.

          • tsmithfield 9.3.1.1.1

            So the police aren’t bound by health and safety laws when they investigate crime scenes then?

            • One Anonymous Bloke 9.3.1.1.1.1

              Yes, and sometimes police die in the course of their duties, and yet are not banned from doing them.

              Basically your argument boils down to “it’s not safe it can’t be made safe”.

              Both propositions have been called into question by experts. Lies have been put about to support the first. Video evidence has emerged that confounds various other official stories.

              Not to mention your nanny state wrapping everyone in cotton wool approach is curiously at odds with your rhetoric about light-bulbs.

              • tsmithfield

                Not at all.

                If re-entry can be made safe, then there is no need to suspend the health and safety act, a tautological truth.

                The fact that politicians are suggesting changing the law suggests that re-entry can’t be made safe to the standards of the health and safety act.

                I wouldn’t have a problem with re-entry if it was done within the current health and safety act.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  “Politicians”, you say? Oh, we can be more specific than that.

                  Prime Minister Bill English says the health and safety changes made in response to the Pike River mine disaster mean the Government would be going against its own laws if it approved re-entry into the coal mine.

                  So it’s probably a cynical and deliberate lie.

                • tracey

                  If it is not reasonably practicable to make something risk free it doesnt mean you cant do it?

                  The Act states if it is reasonably practicable to put proccesses or whatever in place you must… that leaves open the possibility that you can do less than risk free and still be ok under the Act.

                  I bet those families can produce an expert report which says it is “safe”

  10. Phil 10

    “They will not go into Opposition over this… They will literally go back on everything they’ve said in order to get Winston into power. They’ll go back into Pike River… It’s hugely embarrassing.”

    … and it’s equally possible that Winston will do what Winston has done with virtually every other pet project he’s taken on since the winebox – make a big song and dance to get elected, and then do nothing once he’s in power.

  11. veutoviper 11

    Further to my comments under 8 above, RNZ National has led its last few hourly news bulletins with statements by Solid Energy re their intended non-manned re-entry using a robot.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/programmes/news-bulletin/story/201861448/radio-new-zealand-news

    The above link is to the 1pm news bulletin. There is no written article on their News website but the item basically states that SE are on track to undertake the unmanned exploration before Christmas; some delays have been experienced due to bad weather hampering helicopter support operations (everything has to be helicoptered in) ; but SE are intent on pressing ahead with unmanned exploration.

    My cynical perceptions of this are that this is another attempt to override talk etc re manned re-entry, maintain full control to avoid any real invesigation. In other words, again a probable cover-up attempt.

  12. weston 12

    personally i have no faith in the robot scenario …for one thing utilizing them seems to take a huge amount of time and they all seem to have been pretty fucking useless so far entering this mine and for another could we trust that any evidence gathered would be made available to the public ???big question marks .id rather see a team of volunteers comprising in the main cavers .These people actually LIKE going underground and there are a great many in nz Id have a lot more faith in PEOPLE reporting what they had found in fact interest is such that the reentry could be covered by a live feed if that were possible so the whole country could watch and here everything which transpired …a bullshit proof account in other words .So far as health an safety is concerned lets all just agree to flag it sometimes afterall where would the human race be today if noone had ever risked their lives to help another …frankly i think we need more heroes than we need more robots

    • One Anonymous Bloke 12.1

      Heroes

      Whoever goes in will be best served by experience, not heroism. It’s going to be a technically and emotionally challenging environment.

      That being so, they’d be negligent if they didn’t send “robots” in first.

  13. Michael 13

    How about sending Peter Whittle into the mine to recover the workers killed there when he was CEO? I can’t see anyone objecting to that (apart from Whittle, that is).

    • mickysavage 13.1

      I would support that. Captain and sinking ship etc …

    • Andre 13.2

      We already know there was a lot about how that mine operated that was unsatisfactory. While I agree with the sentiment of sending him in to deal with what he was responsible for, would you really want Whittall to be first on the scene where there might still be some really damning evidence?

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