Time to sue for Pike River | The Jackal

5 Dec 2011

Time to sue for Pike River

On the 25 November, TV3 reported MP may sue Labour Dept over Pike River

A West Coast-based MP is threatening to take a civil prosecution against the Department of Labour over its part in the Pike River mine disaster. 
Earlier this month, the department laid 25 charges against Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall, Pike River Coal and drilling company Valley Longwall International for breaches of the Health and Safety Act. 
But Green MP Kevin Hague told Radio New Zealand the department itself must be held to account. 
"Every day at the Royal Commission, we're hearing more and more evidence of practices that were unsafe and that ought to have been picked up, and we've heard about a pretty high level of dysfunction within the Department of Labour. 
"It's clear to me that our Department of Labour is not fit for purpose." 
He says it's likely any private prosecution would be against the department's chief executive. 
"If we're interested in preventing as many mine disasters as we can, the further up the chain we go, the better."

If you needed any further confirmation that a reduced inspectorate and lax oversight has increased the inherent dangers in mining, on the 30 November, the NZ Herald reported there was to be Two probes into Huntly mine scare:

A miner has alleged a Pike River-level disaster has been avoided at the Huntly East Coal Mine after a dangerous level of gas was detected. 
The worker, who did not want to be named to protect his job, told theWaikato Times explosive levels of gas were found while 40 men were working underground earlier this month. 
"It was a Pike River ready to go," he said. 
He described the mine as a "time bomb", and with methane levels at 5 per cent all that was needed was an ignition source for an explosion. 
The miner claimed there was a lack of experience among management, as experienced staff have left for Australia.

Firstly the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson refused to accept there was a problem with mine safety because of a reduced inspectorate. Then she flip flopped and promised to increase the mining inspectorate. However two months on and there is still only one under-trained inspector for the entire country.

This is simply not good enough. Kate Wilkinson should do the proper thing and resign her portfolio.

The Pike River mining tragedy that claimed 29 lives was entirely preventable... if the National government hadn't decimated the mining inspectorate and reduced expenditure on proper safety measures.

Those who are responsible should be held to account. Legal action seems to be the only way to change the status quo to ensure mine safety is improved.