Six years on, the government still lies about Pike River

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, November 19th, 2016 - 11 comments
Categories: accountability, disaster, health and safety, john key - Tags: , , , ,

Today is the sixth anniversary of the Pike River mine disaster, where 29 men died.

For six years the families of those men have not had clear answers about what happened. From the Pike River Royal Commission, they got some answers.

From the government, they’ve had nothing but lies.

It was a lie when John Key said:

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.

It was a lie when Kate Wilkinson got used as the government scapegoat for the disaster, and Key called it “the honourable thing to do.” He even lied about the fact the Royal Commission said Pike River Coal had prioritised profits over safety – a day after acknowledging that’s exactly what it said.

It was a lie when Simon Bridges said the government was “committed to improving health and safety at work” and gave us a law which exempted dairy farms (but not worm farms!) from having health and safety representatives, and quarrying, one of our most dangerous industries.

It was a lie when John Key promised to support the Pike River families in any civil suit that could get them justice. They’re still fighting back against the dodgy blood money deal which saw charges against Peter Whittall dropped.

Then Key made up a ridiculous reason for the Government not to pay the compensation the families had been awarded in court – saying the deaths of their loved ones would “set a precedent” for people who got made redundant.

In the past week, the government has lied again and again about expert advice showing the mine is safe to enter.

Even a day before the anniversary, Nick Smith continued to lie about the situation in the mine, even threatening Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse with arrest if they dare to get in the way of the concrete trucks which are going to seal up the mine forever.

Like Sonya says:

“They lied to us, they’ve told so many untruths, they’ve kept things from us … this is a travesty of justice.”

The Pike River families deserve better. Solidarity and aroha to them today.

11 comments on “Six years on, the government still lies about Pike River”

  1. Incognito 1

    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.

    Apparently, we are living in an era of post-truth politics and John Key delivered another Master Class.

    I do not want to detract from the Pike River Anniversary but it is important to realise and accept that this Government’s way of handling the truth is not confined to disasters and the likes but applies to all (!) its actions and communications.

  2. mosa 2

    Talk about lack of empathy for his fellow countrymen.

    He is a great actor , i will give him that.

    Key is everything good people despise and is the narcissistic , cruel and self serving bastard we all hate.

    He is held up the most popular PM in modern history and yet is the most totally flawed.

    How can a man who behaves this way be held in such high esteem ?
    And people run up to get a “selfie” with this abhorrent excuse for a human being.

    Life to him and his colleagues is expendable when it comes to uncovering the truth when it comes to their role and corporate responsibility in this disaster.

    Their actions and lack of will haunt the families involved here and leave a permanent black stain on this governments tenure in office and a lack of accountability on behalf of the fourth estate for not highlighting this.

    Shame Shame Shame on them.

  3. Leftie 3

    What happened to John Key’s…

    “Whatever it takes”

    • dukeofurl 3.1

      Compare his weasel words to the Pike River families to his promises to clean up the foreign trusts, where the lawyers watered down the new rules to protect their position and foreign customers.

      I see hes making grand promises to the people of Kaikoura about restoring their transport links too

  4. mosa 4

    Leftie when Key used that phrase it was not aimed at the families.

    It was ” Key-speak” for delaying and covering all options to make sure the government or the company are not held accountable or negligent for the loss of life here.

  5. Taken from another post entitled :

    ‘ Pike River anniversary: what have we become? ‘
    { ” Doug White and Peter Whittall, the men responsible for this worksite that just killed nearly its entire workforce, were effectively given control of the rescue. They insisted none be attempted, then after all reasonable hope was gone insisted the mine not be sealed, causing an inevitable series of massive explosions and fires.

    Peter Whittall was allowed to opt out of testifying to the Royal Commission because he might incriminate himself.

    When he was finally charged with 29 counts of manslaughter, Worksafe did a secret deal with his insurance company the night before Court, allowing him to buy his way out of these severe criminal charges for $100k per head. He was immediately allowed to leave the country a free man. ” }

    And from the same article :

    { ” The world’s foremost expert on mine ventilation says the drift can be safely re-entered and searched. New Zealand’s former Chief Mines Inspector says it can be done and he’d be “honoured” to lead the mission. John Key says “his advice” says it’s too dangerous to be considered.” }
    I posted this on a recent article entitled :

    ‘ Pike River Mine can be safely re-entered – but the Government says no.’

    Key said they would enter. Now he backpeddles on spurious so -called advice.

    I call bullshit.

    1) Victims of carbon monoxide/methane poisoning cannot be ascertained unless there is flesh samples. It would behoove any participants in this skulduggery to have those bodies in that mine for as long as possible – preferably forever- lest an autopsy declares the men were still alive and there was a chance to rescue them.

    2) The state of that air / methane extractor main vent that continually broke down and was frequently not even in use.

    3) Unacceptably high methane levels that would have shut that mine down had adequate mines inspection been allowed to take place. Methane levels that were frequently mentioned of by the workers themselves and known of by the Management.

    4) Only one access road in – or out. Which contravenes basic safety from the get go. And was commented incredulously on as such by the Australian mining officials .

    5) This and other previous neo liberal governments deliberate destruction of unions and thus the absolute lack of , – and impossible workload of available mines inspectors – to which on last count there was around only 4 for a nation the size of New Zealand at that time. If union / independent mines inspectors had still been in sufficient numbers today as they were 35 years ago that mine would have been shut down so fast it until those deficiencies were rectified it would have made its foreign investors heads spin.

    6) Investor /Corporate culpability and possible negative litigation against them. If that mine was to be entered and it indeed it was found that both negligence by management in creating the conditions for that deadly event , – and that those men actually were alive after the initial blast and that they could have been rescued – that would be a major setback if these corporate’s were then able to have proceedings brought against them , ( the TTPA ‘s Investor – State Dispute Settlement was designed for just these circumstances ) and also set a precedent in this country that would be adverse to this govts emphasis on foreign investors , – foreign investment in dangerous industry’s that more often than not have had /still have the bare minimum of Health and Safety regulations to protect NZ workers and often scant regard for our environment as well.

    (Slightly edited since first post.)

    The fact is we are witnessing skulduggery right before our very eyes. And it doesn’t matter which party was in govt at the various times, there is culpability there as well as mines management.

    The two latest entities involved, one being Solid Energy , are both govt owned. They are not private concerns. As such , this Prime Minister has /is abdicating his duties as a Prime Minister to direct recovery operations.

    He is the same Prime Minister that is now presiding over yet another disaster, this time beyond the reaches of human intervention. But that most certainly was not the case with the Pike River disaster whereby adequate forensic examination and / or evidence has been denied and deliberately stonewalled to protect various govt, corporate and individual interests.

  6. G. Taylor 6

    The workers do also have a responsibility. At Pike River, miners union (EPMU and forerunner) failed in representing workers industrial health and safety interests – with pay and benefits the most basic of workers welfare interests (which of course includes monitoring performance by Dept. Labour of mining safety responsibilities), Basically, this is partly the fault of trade union membership (such as it was) who permitted a takeover of their union (and trade unions generally) by people from the urban educated liberal elite who saw themselves as being more part of the “Labour Movement” than as trade union activists. This description seems to fit Andrew Little, miners union/EPMU General Secretary for 11 years – until he resigned to pursue the next stages of his labour movement political career – and perhaps also fits predecessor, Rex Jones, during which 11 years the rot set into mining safety – following the destruction of regulation by previous National Governments (left unremedied by the following Labour Government). Both Jones and Little apparently found time to be President of the Labour Party at the same time as being General Secretary of the Union. Mr Little apparently was not likely to robustly challenge the industrial safety policy failures of Labour Government Ministers of Labour and dereliction of duty by Dept. Labour chiefs.

    [The Pike River Royal Commission found that Pike River Coal deliberately tried to force the union out at the mine, up to and including threatening to sue an EPMU organiser who told the miners to walk off the job when no evacuation vehicle was available.

    Trying to derail this post into blaming the men who died at Pike River, or making it about mythical things Andrew Little did, is a horrible thing to do. Don’t do it again. Only warning. – Stephanie]

  7. Excerpt from the New Zealand Listener : Nov 17th 2012

    ” Angry cries for action had come from miners who recognised glaring holes in Pike’s safety management. On October 21, Dene Murphy filed a report demanding: “Get the dam [sic] ventilation sorted out so we can cut coal. This ventilation issue has dragged on for two and a half bloody years!!!” A few months earlier, Murphy had written a report demanding the appointment of a manager to take responsibility for the mine’s ventilation – something required by Pike’s own corporate documents, but never followed through – and threatening to complain to the mines inspectorate if nothing was done.

    Experienced miner Brian Wishart wrote an email to his superior in April 2010 warning that the system to drain methane away from the coalface was inadequate. The Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia had recently exploded, killing 29 men. “History has shown us in the mining industry that methane when given the [right] environment will show us no mercy,” he wrote. “It is my opinion that it is time we took our methane drainage here at [Pike] more seriously and redesigned our entire system.” Stopgap measures were put in place, but the fundamental problem raised by Wishart was unsolved by November 19.”

    Link to the article :…/what-really-happened-at-pike-river.

  8. Jeff 8

    Key has lied, and disrespected our loved ones.
    If there’s an afterlife, he will pay there.
    This cover-up is despicable.

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