Political parties pledge to re-enter Pike River mine

by Craig McCulloch / 16 August, 2017
Anna Osborne, left, and Sonya Rockhouse were among family members at the signing of today's agreement Photo / Craig McCulloch

Labour, the Greens, the Māori Party and United Future sign agreement to re-enter the mine - but NZ First abstains, labeling it a "stunt".

Pike River families are hailing a "moral victory" after MPs from four parties pledged to act immediately to re-enter the West Coast mine if in government.

Labour, the Greens, the Māori Party and United Future signed an agreement yesterday afternoon, pledging to set up an agency to take over and re-enter the mine.

New Zealand First has also previously commited to re-entry.

Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton died in the 2010 disaster, said the signing was a "huge victory for justice".

"The fight that we thought was over a few years ago has now re-ignited ... This is history in the making."

A spokesperson for the families, Bernie Monk, said it was a moment he would remember for the rest of his life - "a moment when right won out".

Mr Monk, who lost his son Michael in the mine, said the "historic commitment" meant they were closer than ever to "recovering our boys".

"Our experts overseas - who are renowned - know that this job can be done. We want our men home. You know that it can be done. And we're going to make it happen."

Bernie Monk Photo / Patrick Phelps

The agreement commits the MPs to "safely re-enter, fully recover, make safe and comprehensively investigate the Pike River mine drift".

"We will immediately create within the new government a Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry," the statement said.

The new agency would devise a plan to fully stabilise the drift by the end of 2018 - so any human remains or evidence could be recovered.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said the cost "shouldn't be an issue".

"Of course we're going to act responsibly. Safety is top of mind. But you cannot put a price on someone's life and their family member's ability to have closure."

It was unacceptable that the families of victims still did not have answers seven years on, she said.

"Twenty-nine people shouldn't die at work in New Zealand, nor should even one person lose their life while earning a living."

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he had initially thought nothing more could be done, but had since changed his mind.

He had become increasingly uneasy as new information emerged, he said.

"For me, it's been quite a difficult journey. It pales in comparison though to the journey the families have been through.

"And I cannot imagine for one moment [the] seven years of anguish, uncertainty, grief and a sense that no closure has been able to be achieved."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has previously pledged to re-enter the mine, even volunteering to go in himself.

But he said he would not be signing the latest agreement as the families deserved better than "a PR stunt".

"We just need political commitment and I gave mine a long, long time ago to the people of Pike River down on the West Coast," Mr Peters said.

"Back then, the Labour Party was promising a review. Remember? I don't like people using death and misery for political reasons."

Acting Conservation Minister for Pike River Issues, Nick Smith, also called the signing a "hollow political stunt".

"No amount of political statements in a pre-election period change the fundamental fact that getting men into the drift has been deemed by a thorough examination to be unsafe," Dr Smith said.

The government has commited to unmanned entry of the mine with robots, which was planned to be completed by Christmas.

But Dr Smith said the government would not put more people at risk by sending them inside.

Solid Energy, which bought the mine in 2012, is due to be wound up in March next year.

Dr Smith said at that point, the mine was set to be transferred to the Conservation Department to become part of a national park.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Why are so many people unwilling to share the road with bikes?
87370 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Social issues

Why are so many people unwilling to share the road…

by Rebecca Macfie

Cycling has the potential to make us healthier and happier, and our cities less congested and polluted. So why are so many people against it?

Read more
No sex, please, we're Aussies
87452 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z World

No sex, please, we're Aussies

by Bernard Lagan

Former Aussie Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is scorned for being not only a philanderer but, worse, a Kiwi.

Read more
Why trees in the cities need protecting
86194 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Environment

Why trees in the cities need protecting

by Margo White

Cities are losing their big trees at an alarming rate. At what cost to our health and wellbeing?

Read more
Here and Now is a masterclass in American disenchantment
87425 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Television

Here and Now is a masterclass in American disencha…

by Diana Wichtel

Watching an actual Nazi run for US Congress, maybe Here and Now is right.

Read more
How to lose weight without a diet
87141 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Nutrition

How to lose weight without a diet

by Jennifer Bowden

"The irony is the intentional pursuit of weight loss – dieting, in other words – is actually a predictor of future weight gain."

Read more
Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later-life reboot
87313 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Social issues

Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later…

by Sally Blundell

The biggest cohort of baby boomers is reaching retirement age – and many are not planning a quiet dotage.

Read more
School shootings and Russian indictments
87455 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z World

School shootings and Russian indictments

by Joanne Black

Slaughter in a school and Russian social-media mischief: the US is under siege.

Read more
Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits
87417 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Profiles

Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits

by James Belfield

Before headlining Auckland City Limits, Beck talks about celebrating his musical past on stage and on record.

Read more