Pike River Day VII

Only one topic today. My thoughts, and I suspect most of our thoughts, will be on the families and friends of the victims.

I thought I would start discussion with some bouquets. I am very tempted to also do some brickbats, but I’ll save those for another day.

Peter Whittall has been amazing. In disasters like this the CEO of the mine would often be the villain, but Whittall’s humanity and compassion has been a beacon, combined with his straight talking and factual manner. I doubt there is a harder tribute to gain than the fact that when he walked out of the press conference where he announced the bad news, the media gave him a spontaneous round of applause.

I also have huge regard for Superintendent Gary Knowles. He had the unenviable job of being the focus of discontent over the frustration that a rescue operation was not launched. The reality is that these decisions are taken by consensus amongst the many experts who were involved. He did his duty well.

I watched the PM’s speech at 1830 yesterday (as did viewers of CNN, BBC etc) and was very moved by it. The PM captured our collective sense of loss. Also made the right decisions over adjourning Parliament after speeches about the tragedy, putiting flags at half mast and signally a full Commission of Inquiry. Gerry Brownlee has also been there on the grround throughout, saying the right things.

Big kudos also to those MPs who have been offering support, and not politicising a tragedy – especially Phil Goff and Damien O’Connor. The joint interview of Chris Auchinvole and Damien O’Connor was a nice symbol of how some things transcend politics. And being Leader of the Opposition can be a very tough role during a national tragedy, and Goff has shown his essential decency in his actions and comments. A couple of his MPs have not done so well, but as I said I will save the brickbats for another day.

Some may disagree with this, but I also give kudos to the NZ media. Maybe it took an Australian journalist to remind us, how good our media is by comparison, but I did like the outrage shown by NZ media as the Australian journalists made ridicolous comparisons to 9/11 etc. And while it was hard on the locals, having the media in Greymouth did allow the rest of NZ to be connected to what is happening, and follow the press conferences. Twitter, as usual, was the best source of up to the minute news. It also allowed journalists to share their raw emotions as events unfolded.

There are of course so many others who have done so much – the Red Cross, Air New Zealand, the local volunteers, the international experts. The only redeeming aspect of tragedies is how they do bring us all together.

UPDATE: You can donate to the Mayoral Relief Fund for the families of the victims at Give A Little. There can be fewer better local causes than this. Be generous.

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