Pike River

November 10th, 2011 at 4:20 pm by David Farrar

Herald reports:

The Department of Labour has laid charges against three parties in relation to alleged health and safety failures at the coal mine, where 29 miners died after an explosion almost a year ago.

25 charges were laid at the Greymouth District Court this morning, but the charges have not been specified because they could lead to the identification of the parties involved.

“They either have existing name suppression orders in their favour, or have the right to apply for name suppression,” the Department said in a press release issued this afternoon.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $250,000.

This is no surprise to those who have been following the Royal Commission. The prosecutions will not bring the men back of course, but may provide some accountability for the tragic loss of life. Of course the charges must be proven in court, and assuming guilty pleas are not entered, we’ll have a trial at some stage.

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26 Responses to “Pike River”

  1. toad (3,669 comments) says:

    Name suppression, FFS! Anyone who has followed the Royal Commission knows who the likely candidates to be facing charges are. Name suppression in this case only casts unnecessary speculation about people who worked at Pike River but are not alleged to have committed health and safety offences and have not been charged.

    Or is it the case that the DoL are prosecuting its own staff? The evidence Neville Rockhouse gave to the Royal Commission when asked how often the DoL Inspectors had audited the safety procedures and policies he had developed was “NEVER”.

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  2. thedavincimode (6,539 comments) says:

    Bloody hell toad; you got one right.

    Am I missing something here, or has the justice system been tipped on its head?

    Is name suppression now a default position or has it always been that way.

    FES/Masterley/Nookin: Help??

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  3. Yvette (2,692 comments) says:

    Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $250,000.

    As above, but on SKY NEWS, $ 25,000. So who is right?

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  4. peterwn (3,164 comments) says:

    Will be interesting to know who is charged – the Pike company, NZ Oil and Gas, or actual people. The Pike company may not be worth prosecuting, and NZOG may not be ‘close enough’ to the action to sue.

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  5. Black with a Vengeance (1,552 comments) says:

    Remember when Brownlee was laughing up the report in parliament that might have saved those miners if implemented.

    Theres blood on that fuckers hands eh !

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  6. Elaycee (4,304 comments) says:

    BWAV / Pollywog: C’mon – please be consistent. It is all John Key’s fault. Key also murdered the 18yr old killed in Auckland at the weekend. And don’t forget, Key was also on the grassy knoll. And he ran the Rena aground….

    Moron.

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  7. trout (902 comments) says:

    NZOG has distanced itself from the Pike River fiasco as it well might; it was a major shareholder but Pike River was not a subsidiary; it is a separate Company that had its own governance. My observation is that in restrospect Pike River was grossly undercapitalized; and was cruelly exposed by unforeseen (not enough money to do proper exploratory drilling perhaps?) circumstances (hard rock in the way of tunneling, rockfall in the ventilation shaft, and machinery failure). Money ran out and there was an urgent need to create cashflow so perhaps shortcuts were taken.

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  8. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    davinci,

    Is name suppression now a default position or has it always been that way.

    It is not, but it should be.  Despite popular opinion, name suppression is pretty difficult to get, and is relatively uncommon.  Many who apply are refused, although some odd decisions do get through now and then.  Of course, those are the ones that are usually reported on.  

    I can understand a grant of name suppression in this case, simply because 29 people died and the public opprobrium will probably be intense, the NZ public tending to presume people guilty once they are charged. 

    That said, it may just be a temporary thing to allow them to inform relatives, or to leave the Coast if they reside there.

    The other point is that  Court Registrars will not divulge names until the charges have been heard in Court for the first time.  I read the article as saying the charges were laid today, not heard in court today.  If that is the case, then the names will be sub judice until they are called and the names will not be suppressed, but simply not be available.  That is because no decision has actually been made about suppression either by a registrar or a judge.  Heck, the charges may not even have been served yet. 

    So, like many crime stories from the MSM, this may actually be a bit of a beat-up.

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  9. Nookin (3,037 comments) says:

    “It is not, but it should be.”

    I seem to recall that we went through a period when names could not be published until an accused was convicted. The legislation was introduced by Dr Martin Finlay QC when he was attorney general. This goes back a wee way and I cannot remember how long the regime lasted. My recollection is that it was not particularly well received and it did not last particularly long. I suspect that the clamour for “open justice” overrode the personal interests of the individual accused. If FE goes back that far he may be able to comment on whether there was a particular trigger point for abandoning the experiment (other than a change in government)

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  10. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    Nookin,

    I don’t go back that far, but wasn’t it under Norman Kirk? From memory of the history books, it was indeed short-lived. Which is a pity, because there is nothing more damaging to a person than being vilified in the press and then acquitted, or, worse, not even charged.

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  11. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    Please enlighten me !

    The Department of Labour has laid charges against three parties in relation to alleged health and safety failures at the Pike River coal mine

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10765109

    Sorry, I do not understand, why the Department of Labour (upper supervision) in charge of health and safety at the Pike River coal mine, can lay charges.

    Is this another case of government deciding on major, rather risky economic decisions, but when it comes to accountability – refusing responsibility ?

    Should not the NZCrown court lay charges against the person(s) in charge of the Department of Labour and the three parties ?

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  12. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    Anybody can lay criminal charges against another person. Many Government departments have an investigative and enforcement function within any legislation that they may have responsibility under, hence Regional Council’s lay charges under the Resource Management Act, OSH under work safety acts and so on.

    I don’t see how you get the idea that the DoL should be charged with criminal offences, however. Wasn’t the Pike River Mine a private enterprise? If so, how can you hold the Government responsible for the accident?

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  13. toad (3,669 comments) says:

    @kunst5 7:08 pm

    The Department of Labour is an agency of the Crown, just as Police, Customs, Fisheries etc are, and initiates prosecutions on behalf of the Crown.

    Whether the Department of Labour was itself negligent in upholding its statutory duty to oversee Pike River health and safety procedures is a different issue, but one that may come to light when the Royal Commission reports.

    Misfeasance, perhaps – come in FESmith.

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  14. toad (3,669 comments) says:

    F E Smith 7:16 pm

    Agreed. Any cause of action against DoL likely to be in tort rather than criminal law. The second para of my first comment on this thread was a bit of a wind-up to get discussion going.

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  15. big bruv (13,314 comments) says:

    Toad

    The Greens have blood on their hands over Pike River. For the sake of a few snails those men would be alive.

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  16. toad (3,669 comments) says:

    @big bruv 7:28 pm

    Sorry, bruv, think and research before commenting. You got the wrong mine.

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  17. Black with a Vengeance (1,552 comments) says:

    well ackshully Elaycee you really have (L.A.C) Lost All Credibility !!!

    Brownlee couldn’t open that mine up fast enough and that mining report he laughed about may well have implemented safety check inspectors that could have shut down the Pike River death trap and saved 29 lives.

    http://www.3news.co.nz/Key-admits-Pike-River-would-have-been-illegal-in-Oz/tabid/419/articleID/215886/Default.aspx

    I believe when questioned about it later he lied and said he hadn’t seen it so yeah, I’m wondering if he taught that trick to Key or vice versa.

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  18. big bruv (13,314 comments) says:

    The mine is irrelevant Toad, they should all be open cast.

    The Greens do have blood on their hands.

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  19. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    toad,

    gotcha on the DoL thing- hadn’t properly read your entire comment.

    I agree that, on the fact of it, there may be an argument of misfeasance in a public office, if what has been said here and in the report is correcty, so that is possible but is really. really difficult to prove.

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  20. toad (3,669 comments) says:

    @F E Smith 8:13 pm

    Yep, agreed misfeasance in public office is very difficult to prove, even on the balance of probabilities level standard of proof in tort claims. But on the evidence I have seen, this may be a case where it applies.

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  21. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    @ toad and F E Smith
    Why are government departments allow to investigate their own failures ? Minister Brownlee was well aware of operational and financial stress of Pike River. Although in West Virginia 29 miners died several months earlier under similar circumstances – safely and proper working conditions were obviously neglected by the government.
    Like another blogger here stated it is always easy for the government to legislate and allow risky economic operations, until accidents/ environmental damage happen and then blame others. Deep sea drilling is just another issue.
    It seems to me, something is fundamentally wrong, when ministers in charge are not made accountable in this country.

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  22. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    Minister Brownlee it is fine to decide on big economic mining and drilling projects by the government.
    http://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/unlocking-new-zealand039s-energy-and-resources-potential
    The questions are do we have in this country enough professional expertise and financial resources to provide top quality safety standards to avoid the risks of life’s, health and environmental catastrophes ? Obviously a number of events suggest otherwise.
    It seems to me allowing megalomaniac economic projects in these sectors by the governments stand in contradiction not only with financial affordability, but also technological limitations of this country.

    Pike River under your political authority failed badly, why aren’t you taking responsibility – Minister Brownlee ?

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  23. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    Pike River mine’s former inspector needed time to compose himself in court today as he said the Labour Department gave him an “impossible task”.
    Kevin Poynter, who was Pike River’s inspector before the fatal explosion, made an emotional admission today at the royal commission into the deaths of 29 men at the Pike River mine.
    He said he was under-resourced, inadequately trained and not supported in his role as health and safety inspector.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/5975022/Mine-inspector-breaks-down-over-impossible-task

    Large operations, which are financially and operational far too complex by NZ standards, executed here in New Zealand with the consent of our government. When something goes wrong the government not only makes it’s own investigation about it’s failure, but blames under resourced inspectors for the accident.
    Ministers with authority power should be accountable, for insufficient financial and technical support and not the people working under such appalling conditions.

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  24. Nookin (3,037 comments) says:

    Actually, Kunst5 Chris Carter gave whatever ministerial approvals were necessary. Brownlee did open the mine in 2008 by which time all consents were in place. Ministers don’t in fact, prescribe safety rules.

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  25. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    Nookin – no, no I don’t eat that.
    I make you aware of following: Then in 2008 National ignored a Labour Department recommendation that check inspectors be restored in underground mines. This undoubtedly ensured a lack of mine safety at Pike River with disastrous results.

    Furthermore: Both Gerry Brownlee and John Key have admitted pre-election meetings with the mining industry took place but have not elaborated on what was discussed. There’s nothing wrong with starting a new policy in reaction to new events during a government’s term but this is something else, they appear to have deliberately kept the public in the dark on a core policy so that it wouldn’t be an election issue.
    http://thestandard.org.nz/mining-secret-agenda-emerging/

    I’m strongly of the view, that under the burden of massive account deficit governments make irresponsible economic decisions, which will lead into more catastrophic events not only here in New Zealand, but worldwide. We have to make sure the NZpublic reject projects, which stresses our moral, financial and technical ability to a point where health, life’s and our environment is at risk to be destroyed.

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  26. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    Go to 12:50 !
    http://www.3news.co.nz/Pike-River-safety-called-into-question/tabid/371/articleID/191014/Default.aspx

    We have to make sure the NZpublic reject projects, which stresses our moral, financial and technical ability to a point where health, life’s and our environment is at risk to be destroyed.
    It seems to me the clowns in our government do not have control of that.

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