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You’ve got to be kidding me

Written By: - Date published: 10:38 pm, January 29th, 2012 - 76 comments
Categories: you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , ,

Pike River boss Peter Whittall, the guy facing charges after 29 of his employees died working in his unsafe, ‘profit-over-people’ mine, has set up a mining safety consulting company. What’s next? A Minister of Tourism who always holidays overseas? A Finance Minister who wants to sell highly profitable assets in a down market? … oh … This country is nuts.

76 comments on “You’ve got to be kidding me”

  1. Mark 1

    There were obviously big problems at Pike River.
    Maybe it should never have been mined, but Coasters wanted and needed the business and jobs.
    Maybe it should have been opencast, and the short/medium term environmental issues balanced out by a land rehabilitation bond (it works in other areas)
    Nobody seemed to be making big profits, despite injecting big capital, perhaps the business case was flawed due to above points.
    Perhaps the miners (RIP) were somewhat blase regarding their own safety (cigarette butts and lighters found inside the mine) and no amount of Mines Inspectors could have policed this – and it would be interesting to see the response if anyone was sacked due to safety breaches.
    I have no experience in the desire or necessity to have bodies recovered to get closure, however if it was hugely important to me and I had experience underground I would be pushing hard to have a go myself to reclaim my brother, son, workmate. I think it is wrong to disallow anyone that opportunity yet expect Emergency Services to undertake the task.
    NZ needs the revenue and jobs that mineral extraction enables, and we are capable of mitigating environmental effects as long as we debate the industry rationally rather than emotively.
    I am sure we have all seen the exotic forests cut and regrown in our sensitive areas, it looks like shit for a few years, then…

    IrishBill: The mine was never viable as opencast. The overburden would have been hundreds of meters deep in places. Both the open-cast claim and the line about workers’ not taking responsibility for their own safety are based on spin spread around shortly after the explosion. They have about as much validity and currency as the calls made at around the same time to make Whittall CEO of the year.


    • Mark 1.1

      However I do agree that this appears to be a slightly insensitive new role for Peter Whittal.. everyone has to earn a crust tho don’t they? Or should he be a beneficiary? 

      • The Voice of Reason 1.1.1

        Should be in jail.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.2

        appears to be a slightly insensitive new role for Peter Whittal..

        “Slightly sensitive”? You’re a joke and an apologist for a man who fucked up in the name of profits.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3

        I have no problem with him finding employment but he has proven himself incapable of the role he has taken.

        • Lanthanide

          Yeah, when I initially heard he set up a mining consultancy company, I thought “fair enough”.

          But because it’s specifically a *mining safety* consultancy, I think that’s a bridge too far.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1.4

        Heard of the mining boom in Australia ? he could earn a living as a mine manger … if he was any good

    • McFlock 1.2

      Much lolz.
      You blame the coasters, thegreenies, the investors, and the miners themselves, but not the guy in  charge.
      Piss off.

      [Be fair.. he was ‘slightly insensitive’…RL]

    • Mark 1.3

      Then we should be mining responsibly where the overburden is not so deep, again rationally debating the industry rather than “mining bad, no mining good”
      The comment about butts and lighters comes from the inquiry, it is not spin.
      Perhaps the pilot of the Mickael Lermentov (local, wasn’t he?) should have been jailed along with Whittal, The Rena Captain etc? 
      In fact,why don’t we jail John Key and everyone in the Nats (maybe all the voters too) as everything is always their fault, no?
      If as someone has commented, the $200M or so from Crafar farms is just going to the Aussie banks, surely it’s better that it is Chinese money, no? FFS, they can’t take the land away, and look at the mess the Crafars made of farming it.. environmental vandalism, animal welfare issues.. 
      No I forget, it’s all the fault of the right, the capitalists, the bosses, 


      • felix 1.3.1

        Well it wasn’t the fault of the cows, mate.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.3.2

        No I forget, it’s all the fault of the right, the capitalists, the bosses,

        Yes, it is, as they do they damnedest not to be held to account or to have rules applied to themselves. They also want to strip all the resources the country has and sell them off leaving the country (that’s us) with nothing just so that they can have a larger bank account.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 1.3.3

        The Rena captain has been arrested , same for Costa Concordia. Try to not change the facts next time.

      • muzza 1.3.4

        What is it with you fucken – “You can’t take the land with you” base level idiots!

      • McFlock 1.3.5

        The comment about butts and lighters comes from the inquiry, it is not spin.
        It is spin when you use it to try to absolve management of any blame for letting things get to that state.

        Perhaps the pilot of the Mickael Lermentov (local, wasn’t he?) should have been jailed along with Whittal,
        It seems that in order to save their own arse, the harbour board and NoT decided that the pilot was not acting as a pilot at the time. Possibly something to do with the overwork he’d had previously impairing his judgement and making them liable. Smacks of cover-up. The captain was charged by the Soviets and given a suspended sentence.

        The Rena Captain etc? 
        The Rena captain who’s currently facing charges, you mean?

        In fact,why don’t we jail John Key and everyone in the Nats (maybe all the voters too) as everything is always their fault, no?
        Well, if it was up to me I wouldn’t have a problem with that, given that their policies kill people.

        Why the hell do you have difficulty understanding the word “responsibility”? If someone is in charge, then they are responsible and should be held responsible if something goes wrong. The issue we have today is that too many bosses are given bonusses if things go right, but aren’t held responsible if things go wrong – captains, pilots, CEOs and prime ministers all included.

        • Lynne

          The ciggies and lighter issue is irrelevant to the explosion, if the mine was safe those items would not matter however silly it was. The fact of the matter is that shortcuts were made to cut costs and time , the mine had only one viable exit , the methane levels were being ignored ,and the ventilation fan was in the wrong place and dangerous ,(it is a possible ignition source).
          At the end of the day nothing will bring these men back to their families but the course of the explosion must be discovered to prevent this ever happening again to do this they must enter the mine with a safe plan .

    • flossie 1.4

      The contraband found in the mine was years ago – before the mine was a ‘working’ mine – when it was just a tunnel being built. Not relevant to what happened at the time. It was back in 2007.

  2. Benjamin B. 2


  3. Eduardo Kawak 3

    You could get the govt to make up some rules to allow to NZ to become a haven for convicted white collar criminals from overseas just cause they’re rich and then make taxpayers foot the bill for their extradition when international authorities catch up with them? We’ll just make sure you don’t these rich ex-cons buy any land. The govt can make up some other rules to sell that to totalitarian Chinese psuedo-govt companies.


  4. johnm 4

    You got it Zetetic
    The Plebeians in NZ get their Commonwealth sold off for the benefit of wealthy investors. Honest workers are victimized in the name of efficiency basically treated with contempt(Port of Auckland). Up and coming Welfare Reform will institute harassment of sickness beneficiaries to find non existent jobs.The elites dole out more cash to themselves with tax cuts. Child poverty is ignored as if it were in another country. And the man who could have protected those miners lives with respect and good safety procedures, but didn’t lives like King Shonkey in his own dreamworld cut off from the lower orders of existence,the only explanation for such an outrageous assertion that he can advise on mine safety.

  5. fender 5

    Another CEO who hasn’t learnt their limitations despite huge cost paid by others.
    Surely a total change of industry would be more appropriate “going forward” for Peter after having gone so backward of late. Or how about a change from being in the top job to starting over in the lowest ranking duties in the mining industry.

  6. debatewatcher 6

    Coming up next: the captain of the Costa Concordia becomes a consultant for safe sailing practices.

  7. tsmithfield 7

    I think he is certainly an expert in what not to do so far as mine safety is concerned. I would be surprised if his venture got very far considering his record with Pike must be public knowledge around the world.

    However, in his defence, I would say that there were severe financial problems with the mine that must have constrained his ability to implement safety systems at the mine, especially if that required capital expenditure. So, it is probably unfair to overly demonise the guy, although obviously he has a lot to answer for.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      What a load of double talk.

      Any financial constraints at the mine can only be blamed if Whittall can be shown to have championed investment in safety and safe practices at the mine and was repeatedly turned down by the Board.

      This is not the case.

    • The Voice of Reason 7.2

      TS, if PRC couldn’t afford to operate safely, then they should never have operated at all. The same applies to any industry, any company, anywhere.

      • Lanthanide 7.2.1

        Yes. Given the apparently $1b worth of coal, I’m sure they could have gotten enough capital to set the mine up properly. If banks weren’t willing to lend then I’d suggest it was a problem with the mine’s operators.

        • Colonial Viper

          Yes. Given the apparently $1b worth of coal

          Ahem. 17.6M tonnes of coal very conservatively priced at $250/tonne. That’s $4.4B worth of coal.

          So yeah, an extra $0.05B spent on safety would have been a good idea.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.3

      However, in his defence, I would say that there were severe financial problems with the mine that must have constrained his ability to implement safety systems at the mine, especially if that required capital expenditure.

      He was the CEO. If such limitations existed he should have closed the mine.

  8. vto 8

    This in fact perfectly shows up Whittal’s incompetence. Like the Pike River criminally negligent deaths of 29 men.

    That Whittal cannot see that perhaps he is not capable in this role and will probably get no work as a mine safety consultant kind of says it all.

    And you can add to that the lack of perception that taking on such a role would be like rubbing salt into the wounds of the victims families.

    It appears the man is blind. Mind you, look at the leadership we have – what is expected? I tell you what is expected – it is that the people are expected to live up to a higher standard than our so-called leaders. Duh.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      That Whittal cannot see that perhaps he is not capable in this role and will probably get no work as a mine safety consultant kind of says it all.

      The old It’s not what you know but who you know* applies which means he probably will be hired.

      It appears the man is blind. Mind you, look at the leadership we have – what is expected? I tell you what is expected – it is that the people are expected to live up to a higher standard than our so-called leaders.

      Our ‘leaders’ like to set the standards that others have to adhere to but don’t like any standards set for them.

      * This actually applies massively in NZ. 70% of positions are filled through social contacts.

    • The Voice of Reason 8.2

      “Mind you, look at the leadership we have – what is expected?”
      Well, this photo shows the sort of dynamic, thoughtful and caring leadership Whittall looks up to. Literally.

      • Draco T Bastard 8.2.1

        Link is erroneous.

        • The Voice of Reason

          Cheers, Draco. Something to do with the URL length.
          The photo is of Whittall looking at Key like a kid looks at an ice cream. If readers can be bothered, just put Whittall in Google image search. It’s one of the first up. The big tongued ass image at the top of the post features on page 4 of the results, but for some reason, if you search for Whittall + Key the ass moves up in popularity to page 2!

  9. randal 9

    more malice in blunderland.

  10. Roy 10

    I predict his consultancy will crash and burn. I suspect he won’t understand why.

  11. RJL 11

    He certainly does have experience managing a mine during an emergency. He probably has useful things to say about what did and didn’t work.

    So, while it does read like a bad joke, he probably does have something to offer on mine safety.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Here’s a clue: don’t give the Captain of the Titanic another command, using the excuse “he must have learnt something from the monumental fuck up”.

      • RJL 11.1.1

        His value as a consultant would be for exactly the same reason that he was questioned by the Royal Commission and for exactly the same reason he will face criminal charges.

        He was there. He knows (some of) what happened. He was responsible for (some of) what did and didn’t happen.

        Whether he has anything significant to offer that won’t be merely be in the Royal Commission document is questionable. But he clearly could be considered an “expert” in what happened in a mining disaster.

        • seeker

          Your comment is poorly reasoned and distasteful. This man incompetently ran a mine which saw 29 precious men lose their lives and you talk of his “value as a consultant” …in that “he clearly could be considered an “expert in a mining disaster.” Disingenuous or what? Get a grip RJL.You are trying to defend an indefensible mining tragedy.

        • Colonial Viper

          I love it. The bigger the fuck up under their watch the more these types think they deserve to be paid. The fact that our society acquiesces is problematic indeed.

    • Zetetic 11.2

      He certainly can advise mine bosses on how to spin themselves into the victim and the heroif any of their workers die

  12. Zetetic the country aint going nuts. This is what the bosses do when they run Rena onto the reef. They rush for the lifeboats taking whatever provisions for survival they can grab. We can stop that, toss them overboard, before they run the ship aground.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 12.1

      The bosses at PRC rushed for the lifeboats all right. They put the business into receivership quick smart and sailed off leaving the costs to someone else.

  13. burt 13

    I don’t think putting Whittall in a place where he has any form of responsibility for mine safety is any different to putting Jim Anderton in a place of responsibility for drug and suicide policies. But hey it was different for Jim eh….

    • burt 13.1

      Oh, but for the record. I think Whittall is as completely unsuitable for this role as Anderton was for the one he had. Difference IMHO is that companies are not forced to listen to the incompetence of Whittall like the country was with Anderton.

    • ak 13.2

      Pretty low even for a tory moron burt. Take this sort of filth over to the sewer if you can’t hold it in, or reap what you sow.

  14. Wayne 14

    The media fawning over Whittall just after the tragedy was unbelievable.

    Here was the CEO, responsible for all aspects of safety in the mines (as described on his company website), who had 29 guys die under him. The buck stops with him. And under the H&S Act 1992, he as the principal bears ultimate responsibility for the incident.

    Yet he was made into a media star by a press sucked in by his glib presentations. And still now, incredibly, he denies any responsibility for what happened. It does not say much for the character of the man.

    • Fortran 14.1

      He had only been CEO for 6 weeks.
      Where is his predecessor – in a good mining job in Australia.

      • The Voice of Reason 14.1.1

        Whittall was the Mine Manager before he was CEO. He oversaw the design, budget and build of the mine, including Ok’ing a one entrance/exit strategy and the provision of inadequate safety training, sub standard ventilation and a culture of bullying. 
        I note the ‘support Peter Whittall’ fb site hasn’t had any traffic since July last year. Isn’t it about time you woke up, too?

  15. Rich 15

    Coasters! You have the same people:
    1. demanding that people be sent into the mine to recover corpses, irrespective of professional opinion as to the extreme hazard involved
    2. complaining that the mine wasn’t run in a safe fashion with regard to professional opinion

    Ironic, really.

    • McFlock 15.1

      Not really. A lot of the people wanting the bodies recovered are mining professionals themselves. 

      It can be mined with an acceptable level of safety, and the bodies recovered with an acceptable level of safety. You just need the equipment and the procedures in place to minimise the hazards in the mine. That takes money and will.

      • Rich 15.1.1

        I wasn’t aware that Tony Kokshorn was a professional at anything other than being a dick.

        • McFlock
          • McFlock

            pithy response apparently killed in editor.
            Pithy response being “I wasn’t aware that Tony Kokshorn was the only Coaster saying that the bodies were able to be recovered”.

  16. Jenny 16

    About time coal mining was left in the 19th C. where it belongs.

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      Problem Jenny is that is not going to happen. The world wants high quality coal, they will pay good dollars for it, and we have it here, lots of it.

      Coal mining is, for better or worse, the way of the future – that will become clear once a barrel of oil is US$160 and petrol is $3/L.

      And steam engines are going to make a comeback. Coal fired steam engines and steam plants.

      • vto 16.1.1

        Quite. And remind me again why John Key wants to sell Solid Energy?

      • Jenny 16.1.2

        The world wants high quality coal, they will pay good dollars for it, and we have it here, lots of it.

        Colonial Viper

        Let’s all bow down to the great god of profit.

        If the mercenary motive is your excuse for putting mining coal, above wrecking the environment, Why not apply it to other things for which the world “will pay good dollars for”.

        Deep sea oil drilling? Fracking? What other destructive industries would you support for a buck?

        Why not asbestos mining, we have mountains of the stuff?

        Why not mill all the native beech forests? The world wants high quality wood, they will pay good dollars for it, and we have it here, lots of it.

        While we are about it; Why not let New Zealand become the world centre for Heroin and P production and export, after all, our back yard chemists are world leaders in this industry.

        And if making money is your top priority why stop at the 19th C. let’s go back to the 18th C. and bring back slavery, this industry alone could eliminate our foreign debt.

        To much

        Over the top?


        CV you may not be able to bring yourself to admit it, but none of above crazy examples I have listed are even half as insane as what you are suggesting. That we trade away the environment which sustains us, for money?

        How many levels of crazy is that?

        None of the examples I have listed above, (even bringing back slavery) could possibly create even a fraction of the death and destruction, experts have determined climate change will cause.

        Of course you could take the intellectually lazy way out and deny that climate change induced by burning fossil fuels even exists.

        So what is it CV?

        Are you a climate change denier, or is it, that you just don’t give a damn?

        • Colonial Viper

          Please note. I am not ‘recommending’ a course of action. I am just suggesting what the most likely eventualities are.

          To give you some piece of mind, I personally think that we need to individually and societally go back to a 1940’s and 1950’s level of physical resource and energy use. However I also believe that physically, politically and economically we will not do that as an advanced western civilisation until we are absolutely forced too.

          So let me ask you a few questions.

          1) How many years until the majority of people choose to give up their personal automobiles and imported consumer items?

          2) How many years until politicians speak the truth and tell the middle classes that the lies must stop, global economic growth is ended or must be ended.

          3) How many years before we as a nation choose to go back to working on the land and living simple lives of low environmental impact?

          I have the answer for you:

          Not until we are absolutely forced too. The doddery and delusional middle classes and upper middle classes will not hear of anything else.

          • vto

            I suspect that your number 3) may be the first mover, if it isn’t already (I think it is).

          • Draco T Bastard

            1.) 4 to 5 years.
            2.) Never
            3.) After our land can no longer support us.

            Not until we are absolutely forced too. The doddery and delusional middle classes and upper middle classes will not hear of anything else.


            • Colonial Viper

              Basically right all round. As someone said to me today – it doesn’t matter how much money the elite think they have today, they’re as fucked as the rest of us.

              • Jenny

                – it doesn’t matter how much money the elite think they have today, they’re as fucked as the rest of us.

                Colonial Viper

                Couldn’t have said it better myself. (not with the same level of profanity anyway).

                It was this message that Churchill gave to the ruling elites of England in 1939.

          • Jenny

            Please note. I am not ‘recommending’ a course of action. I am just suggesting what the most likely eventualities are.

            Colonial Viper

            Most likely, but not inevitable, my old Colonial Boy.

            Remember, evil only triumphs when good people do nothing.

            Unlike you, I am recommending a course of action. Based in the real world on our common shared experience and history

            As bad as trading the destruction of the environment, for a quick buck: – defeatism and fatalism, that accepts that mercenary BAU is inevitable and unstoppable.

            Nothing can be done.

            Nothing can be changed.

            Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

            I would like to thank for listing your rationales for your fatalism. For giving me the opportunity to counter them with concrete real world examples that prove the opposite.

            1) How many years until the majority of people choose to give up their personal automobiles and imported consumer items?

            How about virtually overnight, if given a better alternative.

            The city of Hasselt in Belgium had (and still has) the highest private car ownership in Europe. It was a gridlocked hell, with one ring motorway system and plans for another.

            But instead of ploughing billions into another new motorway, the city of Hasselt decided to put the billions earmarked for motorway construction into making all their public transport fare free.

            In a very short time public transport use went up by an unheard of one thousand percent. Commuters left their cars at home.

            The land set aside for the new ring motorway was turned into a green belt instead.

            2) How many years until politicians speak the truth and tell the middle classes that the lies must stop, global economic growth is ended or must be ended.

            Well, if they started now. The answer is again almost overnight. If you have read many of my comments you would know that I often try and channel the Churchill spirit.
            At a time when the whole leading British establishment fatalistically accepted that a facist take over was inevitable. And that all that remained was for England to make it’s peace with Hitler. Churchill instead of appeasing the facists demanded war, calling on the people of England and the world to rise up against fascism.

            His call was answered.

            Against all accepted wisdom, Churchill’s singular lead was taken up.

            Churchill promised the people of England nothing but blood, sweat, toil and tears and delivered on his promise. Yet in giving a vital lead against fascism at a crucial time, Churchill despite being a rabid imperialist and anti working class tory, was recently voted the most popular Britain of all time.

            If even one politician, I don’t care from which party starting railing against climate change in parliament the way that Churchill railed against facism, If only one politician denounced and appeasers to the fossil fuel lobbyists, and condemned them roundly for cowardice yet at the same timeappealing to their best instincts to change their ways.

            3) How many years before we as a nation choose to go back to working on the land and living simple lives of low environmental impact?

            The answer to the threat of runaway climate change has often been called the World War II solution.

            In World War II – Energy use was rationalised, gardening for the war, became a government policy. The blackout as well as being a defensive move, reinforced in the minds of millions of people the severity of the crisis. The land army was mobilised to feed the population. Strategic heights of industry and the economy was nationalised.

            All these changes happened within weeks and months.

            I have the answer for you:
            Not until we are absolutely forced too. The doddery and delusional middle classes and upper middle classes will not hear of anything else.

            Colonial Viper

            Colonial I disagree with your cynical answer. Our recent history informs me that the middle and even the upper middle classes, are prepared to mobilise themselves enmass alongside other New Zealanders for issues of principle not involved in their immediate self interest or gratification. Anti-war, anti-apartheid, anti-nuclear, anti-schedule 4 mining.

            All that is missing is a strong and gutsy political lead, that is prepared to bravely lay out the magnitude of the threat but not be intimidated by it.

            Here are some links to some organisations that are trying to give such a lead. Hopefully they will be joined by more and more people and even get buy in from some in the established political leadership.



            In New Zealand our main contributer to CO2 emmissions is transport. Mainly because we prioritise the private motor car over public transport.

            We currently spend a billion a year on motorway construction. For a fraction of that money we could fund Auckland wide free public transport for 25 years. From there public transport could be made fare free nation wide.

            When public transport is made free tens of thousands of commuters will flock to use it.

            In Hasselt when public transport became free it became more efficient and safer as the drivers didn’t have to juggle cash boxes and fiddle with change and clip tickets. Journey times were shortened significantly, and became more pleasant. Public transport was flooded with people unlike here where most buses are only partially full.

            Will all this make a difference to global CO2 emissions? No, but like Churchill’s war time Britain, it will inspire the rest of the world to follow our example.

  17. Jenny 17

    Coal mining is, for better or worse, the way of the future – that will become clear once a barrel of oil is US$160 and petrol is $3/L.

    And steam engines are going to make a comeback. Coal fired steam engines and steam plants.

    Colonial Viper

    Prepare to kiss the climate goodbye.

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