Pike River unsealed for now

The Herald reports:

Pike River victims’ families say the Government’s commitment to leave the coal mine unsealed and inspect it with drone technology falls short of their requests, but is still “very positive”.

Prime Minister Bill English agreed today to put a halt to permanent sealing of the mine on the South Island’s West Coast following talks with the families at Parliament.

English refused to grant their request to re-enter the mine’s drift but agreed to look into sending a drone or other unmanned technology into the mine to investigate further.

The families’ spokesman Bernie Monk said the meeting at the Beehive was “very positive” and that they had made more progress with English than they had under previous Prime Minister John Key. …

Following the meeting, English said the Government was bound by health and safety laws.

“This decision is not about politics, it is about safety. We lost 29 lives in that mine and I will not risk losing any more.”

English said the families’ proposal for re-entering the mine – which was written by two international mining experts and published in December – was not a detailed plan “and therefore does not make the case for a safe re-entry”.

“Any decision to re-enter would also have to be made in accordance with our current workplace safety law, so the new directors would still have to take responsibility without indemnity for all aspects of safely entering the mine,” he said.

“It’s highly unlikely a new set of directors would decide it could be done safely.”

The current board chair was explicit:

The chairman of Pike River Mine owner Solid Energy, Andy Coupe, has told MPs he would resign if a re-entry of the defunct mine proceeds.

“I would resign as a director [if a re-entry went ahead]. I would resign if that happened on my watch,” he told a select committee on Thursday.

He says even if a re-entry was ordered by the Government, he would still “seriously consider” resigning.

He’d face five years in jail if he didn’t resign,so of course he’d resign.

He also revealed that cost is a factor in the decision to avoid re-entering the mine.

“Reducing safety to a significant degree does come down to cost. You need to build another egress, which you’re looking at $100 million.”

So $100 million for another egress which might possibly make it safe to enter!

Robots had been tried at the mine in the past but had failed, he said. But the Government had recently been approached by experts with proposals for unmanned access.

No harm in trying robots again.

Mike Hosking points out:

Labour are experts … they want to circumvent the law, the very law we have in place as a result of the tragedy in the first place … they want to hand out exceptions to laws to solve the grief of the families.

A more irresponsible argument is hard to dream up.

You can dismiss Winston’s showboating because it’s Winston, but Labour, the party of the workers and the unions, the party of the miners and the mining industry, the party who would scream to the roof tops and back about workers’ safety … decide in election year, that all of that can be placed to one side.

Their view appears to be that the royal commission and its resulting recommendations are worth less than being straight, honest and upfront with families, who for all the right reasons, are failing to see common sense.

Indeed shameful from Labour, and especially Little.

And also in related news, the Court of Appeal rejects the appeal against the decision not to prosecute Peter Whittall. They find:

The Prosecution Decision and District Court Decision were lawfully made. There was no unlawful agreement to stifle the prosecution by payment of money.

Rather Worksafe properly and independently considered Mr Whittall’s conditional reparation undertaking, amongst other factors, in concluding it was no longer in the public interest to continue prosecution.

The other factors being they thought it was extremely unlikely they would win a trial due to both the burden of proof and the unavailability of many witnesses.

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