Sonya Rockhouse: This isn’t just about our families. It’s about all of us

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, November 15th, 2016 - 22 comments
Categories: disaster, health and safety, Mining - Tags: , , ,

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.

22 comments on “Sonya Rockhouse: This isn’t just about our families. It’s about all of us”

  1. Muttonbird 1

    If the Government seals that mine, they seal more than just our families’ hopes with it.

    Powerful stuff.

    Key’s on the wrong side of this one and he knows it.

  2. Nick 2

    Key is on the wrong side of most things….. And will continue to be, because his lack of empathy, narrow vision, gutless actions and selfish greed is who he is……. Kia kaha Sonya.

  3. pat 3

    “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.”

    and you used to be right….and you still are.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Well, it will be like that once we take the governance of our country off of the psychopaths who are only in it for the money.

      • pat 3.1.1

        she was right (in the main) in what she believed about the old NZ and she is also right in what she believes of the current NZ…her view has changed as has the ethos of the NZ leadership (so called)

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    The Prime Minister’s office will have handle this very carefully. At the moment the Pike River families look like battlers, not whingers. Changing that perception will take more than a couple of posts at the Sewer, especially when you need plausible deniability.

    • Muttonbird 4.1

      True. The two rats, Slater and Farrar, will try to frame the families as irresponsible in endangering the lives of those involved in a mine re-entry.

      • Rae 4.1.1

        They could just read the comments section of any article about Trump, heaps of name calling going on there from Trump supporters, I don’t suppose they’d notice if Slater and Farrar borrowed a few.

      • Michelle 4.1.2

        we can remove the danger of re-entry by sending in a robot of some kind with a camera attached if we cant send in people that is next best and we need to try something

        • McFlock 4.1.2.1

          Didn’t they lose one initially?

          ISTR they sent an IED robot in and it drowned under a water source. And then of course there’s the issue of the terrain in general, and I think someone or a robot got as far as a major rockfall that blocked the tunnel.

          Basically, it’s a job that takes people. It can probably be done safely, I suspect the barrier is how much that safety is going to cost.

  5. save nz 5

    Thank you for such a powerful post. I particularly agree with

    “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.”

    Pike River for me is that example of something you could never think could happen in our country, it’s an example of neoliberalism at work, post truth politics and the inevitable outcome of injustice. Years and many processes later, the victims are still having to fight for just a glimmer of something, like being able to have a proper burial for their loved ones.

    Even that is denied to them.

    • SomeName 5.1

      Remember Save NZ our government was passing legislation and making big political changes while we were all grieving and praying for our men to walk out of that mine when the second explosion came we were all devastated and hurt. We saw other miners walk out safely ( overseas) and we really though so would ours.

  6. I wonder why the Key government is so keen to close he mine.
    What are they afraid off and what do they know that has to be kept under wraps.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      That’s been a big question of mine for some time. What’s in the mine that they want to keep hidden?

      • WILD KATIPO 6.1.1

        Safety standards, .. you know,.. little issues regarding constant unsafe methane levels reported by workers and known about by management , an extractor system that constantly was breaking down , one way access only , and lack of unionised mines safety inspectors on a national level.

        But fear not, … the govt has tightened regulations regarding the unsafe industry of worm farming.

        Neo liberalism?

        Yes,…. all those foreign investors Bill ‘ Double Dipper ‘ English is so proud of attracting might have something to do with it , – as would certain bonuses that were paid to keep workers silent on the health issues and unsafe practices…

        Also… a little point about carbon monoxide / methane poisoning,… pathologists and coroners can only tell if that was the cause of death IF there remains any flesh,… it cannot be ascertained by bone samples only. Therefore ,… if certain were to be found earlier on that had died from that cause,and not the fire … it would have pointed to survival of the initial blasts.

        And that would have put the whole official line about ‘ too unsafe to enter’ at the beginning in jeopardy.

        Which would have caused no end of litigation issues for the govt and management. And pointed to NZ ‘s unsafe working environment, and discouraged more ‘ foreign investment’ if it were to be seen those company’s could be prosecuted if anything went wrong – and with our govt not supporting them.

        And so,… the bottom line is this : that the longer those bodies stay in that mine for those concerned who enabled the conditions for that disaster to occur , … the better.

        Here’s one from the Rolling Stones which summarizes these types of people ; those that would deny justice to those without the power to challenge, those that would treat workers as expendable serfs and place their profit margins over the mere health and safety of a worker.

        Enjoy.

  7. Rae 7

    Suggestion
    Even you have nothing to add to this but are in support of the Pike River families, how about you just post here “I’m with the Pike River families”.
    I hope I can check back later and see many many people adding their voice.
    I’ve made my bottom line reason fairly pragmatic. I say it is a forensic site and should not be permanently sealed, thus making it impossible at some future date, to do a proper investigation. And of course if it is safe to examine, it would be safe to retrieve the dead.
    I can see no definitive reason to permanently seal

  8. Marple 8

    Sorry if this has been already mentioned – I’d like to donate to this particular protest so they keep going until some action is taken. Does anybody know if there is a fund I can donate to?

  9. Michelle 9

    Yes poor buggars they were promised by John key he would do everything he could to get them out and once again he hasn’t delivered on his promise. He has given these people false hope, shame on him.
    We should have one last look before we seal that mine permanently. The government and the power company don’t want anyone to go in that mine, why is that, they say it is too dangerous how do they know this they are not mine experts. Also I don’t believe the Pike river mine will be sealed permanently it will be sold later and mined with our men lying in there. Our government thinks people are stupid they think the interest or the people will wavier and they will forget over time. But they wont and neither would I if one of my loved ones was lying in that mine. No one has been held responsible this is not good enough 28 of our men lying in the mine they worked in and who got of killing these men.

  10. Eve 10

    I’m with the Pike River Families
    Shame on John Key

  11. Eve 11

    “I’m with the Pike River Families”
    Shame on John Key

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