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Pike River: New video footage proves Key made the promise he denies

Written By: - Date published: 10:08 am, October 17th, 2012 - 62 comments
Categories: accountability, disaster, john key, Mining - Tags: ,

The Pike River tragedy is an ongoing source of grief to the families and the community. While public attention has moved on, their struggle to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones continues. There are many around the country who have not forgotten them.

Key made a big promise to the families of Pike River, and then tried to deny it (there was plenty of coverage and accusations of reneging at the time). Despite publicly calling the recovery of the bodies an “absolute priority”, Key tried to play weasel word semantics with the nature of the promise that he had made:

He denied promising family members that the victims’ remains would be recovered. “I never promised anyone we would get the bodies out,” he said. “We promised family members that we would do everything we could to get the bodies out. We have done everything that we believe we possibly can.”

So did Key promise family members that the bodies would be recovered? Thanks to previously unseen video footage shown by 3 News on Monday, now we can hear for ourselves (2:10 min):

The first thing is I’m here to give you absolute reassurance, 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, I hate to say it, but they’re playing with your emotions.

Absolute reassurance, committed to getting the boys out. When Key said “I never promised anyone we would get the bodies out”, he lied. Now that Key’s faulty account has been corrected by the video evidence it’s time for him to put up or shut up. He owes it more than ever to the Pike River families to do the right thing. Key made the promise – he should honour it.


62 comments on “Pike River: New video footage proves Key made the promise he denies”

  1. BM 1

    This is really sleazy journalism, if Labour have any brains they wouldn’t go near this with a barge pole.

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      What’s sleazy about it?

    • freedom 1.2

      BM, the PM stands in front of the victim’s families, promises the moon and has delivered nothing but a photo of his rear end

      • BM 1.2.1

        He’s hardly going to tell them there’s fuck all chance of getting the bodies out is he.

        Every one in NZ knows it’s too dangerous to get in there and retrieve the bodies, trying to score political points of this is about as stupid as the whole tape debacle.

        • One Tāne Huna

          Right, and when John Quixote was trying to score political points by promising the Earth, what was that then?

        • Lanthanide

          “Every one in NZ knows it’s too dangerous to get in there and retrieve the bodies, trying to score political points of this is about as stupid as the whole tape debacle.”

          So why did Key make such an outlandish promise, then?

          Obviously, Key was trying to score political points, so he must be stupid because “everyone in NZ knows it’s too dangerous”.

          • TheContrarian

            “So why did Key make such an outlandish promise, then?”

            As far as I can recall he said this before the scale of danger within the mine was known.

            • Lanthanide

              So I repeat, why did Key make such an outlandish promise?

              • That’s what politicians do.

                • BLiP


                  And why they get away with it is because of the attitude expressed in your comment. The idea that its “just the way politicians are” is insidious, but all too common these days. As good ole Plato said, and as has become the case in New Zealand: ““The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”.

                  • No, I don’t think they should get away with it. I don’t have apathy towards public affairs.

                    Key no doubt expressed a genuine wish to get the bodies but he should have said something along the lines of “we need to assess the situation before we can make that call”.

                    • freedom

                      oh dear lord marymary, but he didn’t say that did he? and an election was looming, and look at his body language, he is spinning so fast he could disrupt Jupiter’s orbit. The PM lied, you know he lied. Man up for once and just say it out loud “The PM lied” You will feel so much better and the cerebal cortex may begin to reconnect all the obvious missing bits for you in the tsunami of reality that follows.

                  • Rogue Trooper

                    A significant Blip

                • That’s what some politicians do – the irredeemably immoral/amoral and/or inept ones.

                  Some either have a mature enough sense of decency or sufficient political nous not to make rash statements in emotionally volatile situations. 

                  It seems, conveniently, that Key didn’t learn that lesson till the February earthquake:
                  He’s careful, though, about some of the things that come out of his mouth. Because once the prime minister says something, it’s official.
                  If you’re dealing with tragedy you learn very quickly that you don’t actually confirm someone has died or that the number of deaths are a certain number, till you’re absolutely sure that number’s right.”
                  Such as February 22 in Christchurch. “I didn’t lightly say ‘We’ve lost at least 65 people’ on that night,” says Key. The number came from the police, “but I also knew that if it was terribly, terribly wrong – if it was, say, 10 people – I thought, well, I’ll have to go as prime minister.”

                  “I remember waking up and thinking, if it’s 10 [people] in the morning, I’ll resign. Just because you can’t mislead the country.  

                  How about when you mislead some families of dead miners? Intentionally or not.

            • Te Reo Putake

              The scale of the danger was known on the Friday the mine exploded. That’s why rescue crews weren’t sent down, remember?

              It’s always been dangerous to recover the bodies, but Key told the families it would happen anyway. Given his dementia issues, he’s probably forgotten that he ever made the promise, but promise it he did.

              • “The scale of the danger was known on the Friday the mine exploded. That’s why rescue crews weren’t sent down, remember?”

                Indeed, but situations change

                • Te Reo Putake

                  This one didn’t change, except in the sense that it’s now safer than it was at the time (ie no new explosions, an inert mine and a series of blast doors built in the first few hundred metres of the shaft). When Key made the promise to recover the bodies it was well known just how dangerous it was going to be, but there were still plenty of volunteers to do it. Now that there is a sensible, safe and coherent plan to recover the bodies, the only thing stopping it happening appears to be Key himself.

                • mike

                  “Indeed, but situations change”

                  We live in a dynamic environment huh. The issue here is that Key has made a promise to grieving families on his pre-election soapbox, and instead of apologizing and admitting he was hasty and wrong to do so, he’s just lied and said he made no promises. That speaks to his character in a big way.

                  Maybe he’s not the first politician to do such a thing, but when you get snapped you should have to face the music.

                  • “Maybe he’s not the first politician to do such a thing..”
                    Wouldn’t think so

                    “..but when you get snapped you should have to face the music.”

        • Carol Rose

          And tell me what NZ knows about the danger of pike? Only what John Key has told them. It’s dangerous constructing a 20 storey building but they do risk assessments and manage the risks. John Key tells the people what he wants them to believe. Don’t be suckered by him, you’re playing right into his hands. Bring those men home, they deserve our support. Kiwis don’t leave their fallen behind.

        • Frank Macskasy

          “He’s hardly going to tell them there’s fuck all chance of getting the bodies out is he.”

          Key didn’t have to do anything. He could just as easily have told them that “I can’t promise anything anything we don’t know how bad it is. If we can do something, we will, but we’ll have to wait and see what the conditions are before risking more lives.”

          Simple. Honest. And I believe folk would’ve taken such a statement as it was intended.

          But BM, let’s cut through the BS and get to your real point. You’re attempting to minimise and dismiss Key’s broken promise so that he doesn’t appear as bad as he is.

          It’s not the broken promise you’re attempting to deflect, it’s the impact on Key’s image.

          Would you do this for any other politician? Of course not. You’re a National supporter and an apologist for behaviour you would not accept from any other political leader.

          Because let’s be clear here; if rank and file party supporters are willing to accept second-rate behaviour from the politicians they follow, then truly, we will get the government(s) we deserve.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      Strange, I don’t see Labour anywhere near this.

  2. ianmac 2

    John Key’s promise was just before the election. Surely he was sincere? Wasn’t he? Yeah Right!
    Again I wonder why Key doesn’t want to appear on Campbell Live.

    • BM 2.1

      Because Campbell is the lefty equivalent of Leighton Smith, you’re hardly going to get a fair go, so why bother.

      • tc 2.1.1

        True BM, he may even have to answer questions not vetted and approved by his minders like when the womens mag’s interview him.

        What a tough guy.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 2.1.2

        Equivalent ? You must be joking Smith is so far to the right of National he makes ACT seem like hones party.

  3. Chris 3

    Everyone knows what a “number two’s” is in toddler speak, so he definitely didn’t lie there. He is an abysmal little man who should not be in charge of anything,let alone our wonderful country which is rapidly descending into a shadow of itself under the watch of this “number two” and his rapidly fading jaded party. They are all looking battle weary!

  4. tc 4

    Watching the whole NACT wrecking crew reminds me of that behaviour when kid’s ‘apologise’ but don’t mean it.
    Then there’s deny doing what can clearly be proven they did, even when shown the evidence they did.
    Also telling one lie not realising they have to tell a bucket load more to have any chance of stringing a credible story together.
    Blaming someone else (normally labour) seems to have subsided.

  5. give you absolute reassurance, we’re committed to getting the boys out

    An absolute reassurance of a commitment? There’s the wiggle room he’s fidgeting within, right there.

    The only problem for Key is that an ‘absolute reassurance’ (why not just ‘assurance’?) means nothing if the ‘commitment’ to which it applies is itself conditional in unspecified ways.

    Key said “nothing’s going to change that [i.e., the commitment]” – only something clearly has (e.g., too unsafe, too costly, etc.). Or is his ‘commitment’ simply some kind of warm, glowy feeling inside his mind that remains as warm and glowy as when he talked to the families?

    Who’s playing with whose emotions here? 


    • Lanthanide 5.1

      “The only problem for Key is that an ‘absolute reassurance’ (why not just ‘assurance’?)”

      Key has a poor grasp of the English language.

      • McFlock 5.1.1

        Key has a poor grasp of the English language
        Lucky his school was in chch then – there’s a good chance it will be closed so we will not be inflicted with a pm like him again.

        • Puddleglum

          His primary school was Aorangi.

          That was closed a few years ago and its pupils went to Burnside Primary. That’s now slated to close/merge. 

  6. Richard 6

    It should be obvious to anyone that “I promise to get the bodies out” is implicitly caveated with “Up to the point it becomes prohibitively dangerous or expensive”. That caveat is reasonable.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 6.1

      The South Canterbury Finance bailout required a extra payment of $100 mill plus to unsecured bond holders. So prohibitively expensive was no problem then.

      Then there is the Rena, how much is the Govt out of pocket for a ‘prohibitively expensive’ salvage , most of which is not covered by insurance

    • Pascal's bookie 6.2

      Turn it up.

      “Absolute” and “nothing’s going to change that” aren’t reasonably caveated by it being too expensive. Those phrases you use when reassuring people that money isn’t factor here.

    • And who gets to choose when something is prohibitively dangerous or expensive?

      Ans: The government/Key.

      It’s not ultimately even the engineers who decide on safety since that depends crucially on the amount of expense and time and effort the government is going to commit to as part of the process, and the value it places on the goal.

      As for cost, that clearly is the Government’s decision as to when it becomes ‘prohibitive’.

      Basically, the government has done a cost-benefit analysis – no doubt ‘under advice’ – on its ‘commitment’ and has come up with the answer that it is no longer committed to recovering the bodies. Getting the bodies back, it has decided, isn’t worth the effort, time, money and risk.

      That’s why Key now says “We have done everything we believe we possibly can.” ‘We’ is the government. Others may believe there is more that could be done.

      Why can’t the government just be honest?

      The answer seems to be that being honest would make the PM’s words at the time seem, at best, insensitive and incautious and, at worst, a case of wanting his PR cake and eating it too. After all, his statement shows that he was acutely aware of his political vulnerability on this issue (i.e., “when people try and tell you we’re not, they’re playing, I hate to say it, but they’re playing with your emotions“).

      Sorry Richard, but the ‘implicit caveat’ argument doesn’t fly. Just when a supposed ‘implicit caveat’ kicks in is the whole point of the debate: 1% risk of an explosion? $1m cost?

      Key needs to apologise.

      He also needs to learn that he can’t go around just saying what happens to be politically and personally convenient at the mo’ with no thought of the meaning and effect those words have.

  7. One Tāne Huna 7

    Are any of these families American movie producers? There’s the problem right there. In the absence of major studio involvement it’s quite unreasonable of them to expect some sort of special treatment.

  8. Enough is Enough 8


    Do you seriously think Key should keep his promise. Even if that risks the loss of further life?

    He shouldn’t have made the promise in the first place but come on…this is one he unfortunatly has to break.

    • Lanthanide 8.1

      Yeah, how dare we expect a politician to keep a promise?

      Here’s a clue for you: he shouldn’t have made the promise in the first place unless he was sure he could meet it.

      • Enough is Enough 8.1.1

        I completley agree Lanth. He shouldn’t have made the promise in the first place. That is what I said. He should be exposed AGAIN, for being a fucking idiot and the worse Prime Minister any western nation has ever seen.

        But there are real risks in trying to enter that mine. Pouring money into it does not mitigate the risk.

        Hang Key by all means. But don’t advocate risking other lives to prove a political point.

    • r0b 8.2

      Do you seriously think Key should keep his promise. Even if that risks the loss of further life?

      I haven’t been keeping up on the risk assessments.

      If the bodies can be retrieved without significant risk, then whatever the cost it should be done.

      If significant risk cannot be eliminated then I don’t think further lives should be placed in danger. However in that case Key should front up to the families, and instead of denying his promise, he should apologise for breaking it.

  9. Red Rosa 9

    Key milked the emotional side of Pike River for all it was worth, at the time.

    Under similar circumstances – risk, cost and near physical impossibility of recovering bodies – mines have often been simply closed and sealed. This should have been recognized. Instead, looks like false hopes have been maintained ever since.

    Clearly, the miners should never have gone down on that shift. And for this, the Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson has to answer. A dangerous job – but lax safety standards almost guarantee tragedy. From the US


    Key had lots to say about NZ vs Oz mine safety in the immediate aftermath, some of which turned out to be wrong.


  10. vto 10

    Key just cannot bring himself to act in accordance with anything other than the principles of his previous ‘industry’, money-trading.

    The surprising thing is that we are so surprised.

  11. Populuxe1 11

    The first thing is I’m here to give you absolute reassurance, 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, I hate to say it, but they’re playing with your emotions.

    I’m pretty sure “committed” contains suppressed caveats appreciable by any English speaker, and to criticise Key for something as trivial as a rhetorical misfire, especially given the emotional circumstances and the far, far worse things his government has done since, is shrill and petty. I suspect within the context of National ideology he wasn’t trying to play with people’s emotions, although he was a dork to try and justify it. I really do think this kind of mountains out of molehills muckraking is counterproductive when the Government is doing horrific things that need to be highlighted in depth far more uregntly.

    • leftriteleft 11.1

      Did you actually watch the video clip?

      He stopped mid sentence —- To say “”play with people’s emotions””. Look at Me Look at Me.

      But I agree with your next statement. I think the word DORK was used.

    • Rogue Trooper 11.2

      shrill and petty (and that’s not a Heartbreaker)

  12. Key will claim that the person in the video was a ‘stand in and he has no responsibility for
    what he says’ 🙂 he found the actor in the US.

    • Chris 12.1

      “I have no recollection of ever being there and saying that stuff”( Suck of air through teeth!!!)

  13. Rogue Trooper 13

    God Bless Tony Kokshoorn ( A Real Man)

    • Rogue, you’ve made an interesting point…

      Following from the first explosion at Pike Rive Mine, there seemed much positive comment heaped upon the likes of Peter Whittall and John Key.

      The Police officer in charge of the operation, Superintendent Gary Knowles, was not treated so favourably by the public and media (not sure why).

      As events have transpired, Knowles appears to have been the one person out of those three who has emerged with reputation intact.

      By contrast, the “hero of the moment”, Whittall appears to be implicated in poor mine safety practices and bullying of people who raised concerns, and Key has been shown to be a publicity-grasping exploiter of the tragedy.

      “Pike River inquiry: What next?”

      • prism 13.1.1

        FM 13.1
        I think S.Gary Knowles was the one most exposed to the grieving and other public having as he gave the message that no-one was going to do anything except go tut tut how sad. So he ‘copped’ the anger and sadness as he kept repeating that he wasn’t going to put his men at risk to search.

        And the police weren’t willing to let the locals make decisions on making their own entry at their own liability. Police could have run an exercise with them checking on vital concerns as to safety, possibilities, practicalities, methods, machinery, safety measures and accessories. Instead there was the stone wall preventing any action and initiative and the stony face of the police conveying this.

  14. prism 14

    Jokey Hen is not being reported saying that he’s comfortable about …whatever lately.

  15. felix 15

    ‘Look, the reality is I may have made some promises but I just don’t recall. I’m always promising things, that’s just my style, and Pike River was in the media a lot at the time.’

  16. Bevan 16

    The serial liar strikes again…

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    GreensBy Jan Logie
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