One of the Pike River family members who were blockading the road to the mine was on the front page of the NZ Herald yesterday.
It’s calm here at the gates. Through the day we sit and talk with the media, with people on facebook and email, and with the many supporters who make the journey up in person. At night it’s quiet except for the sound of the wind and the bush. I feel closer to my darling son Ben, still lying in that mine just up the road.
We’ve got a caravan and a couple of BBQs, people have been bringing us food and aroha, occasionally the plainclothes cop car swings by to keep an eye on us. We’ll be here for a while yet. The sandflies are appreciating our company.
If you’d asked me back in the old days if we’d be camped out in the middle of nowhere in a last ditch attempt for justice, I’d have thought you were mad. We lived a pretty normal life – a pretty normal Kiwi life. But what happened on 19 November 2010 changed everything for me, for the other families, for New Zealand.
What’s happened since then has only made things worse. I sat in a room in 2011 – just before the election – and listened to Prime Minister John Key say, “I’m here to give you absolute reassurance, we’re committed to getting the boys out, and nothing’s going to change that.”
He was right on one count. Nothing changed. We waited and waited, and the Pike River Royal Commision of Inquiry found many massive failures behind the disaster that killed our boys. But nobody was held to account. The mine was sold to Solid Energy, and we thought that in buying the mine the Government would finally keep its leader’s word. But it didn’t. We brought our own international experts in, and they agreed it was safe to enter. Nothing happened. In 2014 Worksafe’s New Zealand Chief Inspector stated there were “no operational barriers to reentering the mine’s tunnel.” Nothing changed.
Now six years later, the Government is moving to seal the mine with four massive concrete plugs. They are literally putting hundreds of tonnes of concrete between us and our boys. Between the whole world and whatever evidence of what happened is down there.
I used to think that we lived in a country where people could get justice. It might take a while, but it would happen. And I used to think that if the Prime Minister made a promise about something as important about this it would be kept. Now I don’t.
We’ve had a lot of time to think while we’ve been at the gate. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is why so many people are supporting us to get our boys out of that awful hole. What I’ve decided is that it’s because many, many New Zealanders still want to live in a country where when terrible things like the Pike River explosion happen, someone is held to account, justice is delivered, and people are supported. That the government keeps faith with them.
So this isn’t just about our boys and what happened. It’s about all of our families, and standing with us is about standing as Kiwis. If the Government seals that mine, they seal more than just our families’ hopes with it.
For the full article and a piece by Sonya’s son Daniel, who walked out of the mine, visit the Herald website.
The occupation is on hold given the national emergency which has occurred.