Footage from inside mine puts Pike re-entry on agenda again

EDITORIAL

Six-and-a-half years on from the coal-mining disaster that cost 29 lives and led to an overhaul of the country’s health and safety regulations, Pike River continues to haunt the Government — leaving Prime Minister Bill English in an unenviable position.

The debate has come to a head again with the release of video obtained by Newshub showing two workmen inside the drift of the mine and a robot that, although it had smoke coming from it, had not caught fire. The robot might not have been ablaze, but the issue of 29 bodies left underground certainly is.

Families and their former lawyer Richard Raymond QC were adamant they had never seen the footage. English stuck to the advice he was given by police that some of the footage had been shown to some family members.

It placed English in an awkward position. He had no option really but to accept the advice, and the police are standing by their claim that it had been shown.

Certainly the footage is not new. Taken in March 2011, it was seen by the Royal Commission that looked into the disaster and decided, controversially, that no one could be charged. Since the Newshub story, police have released 13 hours of the footage.

But it remains a thorn in the side of the Government.

There is tremendous sympathy for the families and their natural desire to retrieve the bodies and give them a decent burial.

Arch politician New Zealand First’s Winston Peters says his party will not be part of any government that will not allow re-entry to see if the bodies can be retrieved. He told the Nation on Saturday that a re-entry mission should be given exemption from prosecution should something go wrong.

By contrast, Solid Energy continues with its stance that it is not safe to re-enter the mine. English backs this assessment from the people responsible, that the dangers are too great, saying it is not a political decision and Peters is misleading families.

It may be coming down to a clash of experts, particularly as the available technology continues to advance.

Six-and-a-half years on from the coal-mining disaster that cost 29 lives and led to an overhaul of the country’s health and safety regulations, Pike River continues to haunt the Government — leaving Prime Minister Bill English in an unenviable position.

The debate has come to a head again with the release of video obtained by Newshub showing two workmen inside the drift of the mine and a robot that, although it had smoke coming from it, had not caught fire. The robot might not have been ablaze, but the issue of 29 bodies left underground certainly is.

Families and their former lawyer Richard Raymond QC were adamant they had never seen the footage. English stuck to the advice he was given by police that some of the footage had been shown to some family members.

It placed English in an awkward position. He had no option really but to accept the advice, and the police are standing by their claim that it had been shown.

Certainly the footage is not new. Taken in March 2011, it was seen by the Royal Commission that looked into the disaster and decided, controversially, that no one could be charged. Since the Newshub story, police have released 13 hours of the footage.

But it remains a thorn in the side of the Government.

There is tremendous sympathy for the families and their natural desire to retrieve the bodies and give them a decent burial.

Arch politician New Zealand First’s Winston Peters says his party will not be part of any government that will not allow re-entry to see if the bodies can be retrieved. He told the Nation on Saturday that a re-entry mission should be given exemption from prosecution should something go wrong.

By contrast, Solid Energy continues with its stance that it is not safe to re-enter the mine. English backs this assessment from the people responsible, that the dangers are too great, saying it is not a political decision and Peters is misleading families.

It may be coming down to a clash of experts, particularly as the available technology continues to advance.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you support the new identity and wellbeing focus of Trust Tairawhiti (formerly Eastland Community Trust)?