Why Pike River Mine matters and why we owe the families



Many have mocked Winston Peters claim that he would go into the mine.

That is wrong.

What Winston, the Greens and Labour all understand and appreciate about the Pike River Mine  is how utterly responsible we all are as a civil society for the deaths there.

It wasn’t just the mass loss of life. It wasn’t just the whitewash investigation. It wasn’t just the bewildering lack of accountability. It was us, as a country that allowed Pike River to occur.

We as a country did not demand from our Government stringent enough work and safety regulations and those flawed rules were simply missing at Pike River.

We are a modern liberal democracy. Worker rights and the security in knowing your loved ones will return from work at the end of the day are demanded and expected in the modern age. That we as a nation have allowed anti-union political parties to rob us of that security is our fault.We owe those families a proper investigation and a real attempt to return their loved ones just as much as we are responsible for never allowing this to occur ever again.

Winston realises that. Labour appreciate it and the Greens get it.

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The anti-union National does not.


  1. If International Mine Safety experts reckon they can recover the bodies, let them have a go, they have the technology and the experience, if it’s too dangerous once they get in there they will get the hell out of there. They will have gas reading apparatus and will be making sure they are 100% safe. I think everyone is over the blame game, the families just want closure and wish to give their loved ones a proper burial.

    • Even if they don’t get permission the families should break in anyway. They now have road access and a fence to block the corporate out. They really could go in undercover. Whats the difference these National corporate guys allways do back handed stuff to get there way. Anyway maybe it is more useful as an election isue if it can change the government next year with all that public support

  2. Look, they WON’T EVER let anyone go into the mine because it COULD reveal all the wrong things as far as the official government spin is concerned. We were told with 100% certainty that ALL of the miners were killed in the FIRST blast. Going into the mine MIGHT prove that correct, but the government know that it might not be the case. What if it turns out that say 20 people survived the initial blast, and 5 more survived the second blast? How does that make the “experts” look? How does it make the National government look? What sort of liability (not to mention political) ramifications could the ACTUAL facts unleash? That is all this is about, and why they’ll fight it tooth and nail. Sure it could all be in their favour, but the the fact they’re fighting this every step of the way suggests they’re not nearly as sure as the “official inquiry” states.

  3. Agree – but suggest slight correction: ‘flawed rules’ were present, not missing. Suggest you change ‘flawed’ to ‘much-needed’.

  4. Its very good you’ve dedicated a post to Pike River Martyn, … I was beginning to think you were staying away from it. Very grateful.

    Winston Peters stated on RNZ on the same Monday Key resigned , … ‘that along with other things the economy is not what we have been led to believe it is ‘ … when queried as to why he thought Key had resigned so suddenly stated ” it is because of issues of administration and accountability which we will all be hearing about in the weeks and months to come”…

    Today , on RNZ,… he named it for what it is : a cover up.


    He’s really laid it on the line. And despite his detractors saying hes ‘ grandstanding’ , I don’t think so. And the fact that Labour and the Greens have come out in support is heartening.

    It is suspicious in light of recent events for a number of reasons…here are just a few…


    1) John Key confides in Bill English 2-3 months beforehand that he will resign.

    2) November sees an increased urgency and belligerence towards the Pike River family’s in having the mine permanently sealed off.

    3) John Key announces his sudden resignation.

    4) Winston Peters says on RNZ on the same Monday Key resigned , … ‘that along with other things the economy is not what we have been led to believe it is ‘ … when queried as to why he thought Key had resigned so suddenly stated ” it is because of issues of administration and accountability which we will all be hearing about in the weeks and months to come”…

    5) The almost foregone conclusion that Bill English will become Prime Minister and the manner by which he was ‘recommended’ by Key.

    6) There is to be a general election this coming year ( 2017 ).

    7) The timeframe designated by Solid Energy was to have been no later than February as the deadline for the mine to be permanently sealed off …. happening during and just after the Christmas period when most of the public would still be in their holiday breaks .

    8) The use of the ‘ law ‘ as an insurmountable obstacle . Despite the recommendations by this recent report in dealing with that issue by stating :

    ‘ We accept that the SENZ Board will not agree ours or even their own re-entry plan. Only direct action
    by the New Zealand Government can decide the outcome. It would appear that re-entry would only
    proceed if SENZ no longer had any responsibility for the mine. A new ownership structure under
    government will therefore be required to allow re-entry to proceed. ‘


    There is also this from Brian Robinson in the report delivered to the Pike River family’s and their lawyer :


    ‘ Royal Commission recorded as evidence in the official inquiry that recovery of mine sites post explosion is a vital part of any proper investigation,
    providing hard evidence not only to the official inquiry and securing justice for victims, but to discover important technical information for the international mining community to hopefully prevent any recurrence.

    Whilst the Royal Commission was as thorough as possible, it was denied key physical evidence because of the failure to re-enter and recover the mine. Recovery of coal mines following incidents and disasters caused by fires, gas and dust explosions, ground failure and inundation has been safely completed many times to recover victims and vital physical evidence.

    It is therefore inaccurate at a purely technical level for SENZ to maintain that recovery of the Pike River mine is ‘impossible’ because it is ‘unsafe’. It can be made safe once the risks are controlled, and there are numerous recovery techniques available depending on the prevailing conditions. ‘

    Pike River is a cover up. Penny Bright has a few interesting facts about it as well :



    The more one looks into this , the more one sees the murderous avarice of the neo liberal agenda at work in this country . To the extent of even covering up the simultaneous deaths of 29 working New Zealanders.

    I am grateful for NZ having Peters. And again , despite his detractors – he is in effect doing what the media should have been doing all along.

  5. Something pertinent to retain when the issue of mining in national parks and sensitive areas is again pushed by a National Govt in future….

    There are those of us who will remember right back at the beginning of Keys tenure, both Key and Brownlee advocated the opening up of our national parks for mineral exploration – to be executed using OPEN CAST techniques.

    Put to the public in submissions , – it failed with around 98% rejecting the proposal.

    Had it gone ahead , and because underground mining is inherently more expensive for company’s to operate , – and inherently more dangerous , … there were moves afoot ( and still are ) to pursue the case for overseas mining extraction company’s to be able to use open cast techniques rather than underground operations ( as well as off our coastlines eg : fracking etc ) and in ecologically sensitive areas ( such as ironsands on our beaches ) as well as in our national parks.

    Many of them still retaining a license for future prospecting and extraction .

    That in itself is food for thought.

  6. Something pertinent regards to the role of unons , mines inspectorates and how this National govt has weakened their role. Which led on to the situation of Pike River. Note also the similarity between Upper Big Branch and Pike.

    The Upper Big Branch mine was very similar to Pike, happening several months beforehand, … and like Pike, … 31 miners involved, … and 29 killed. The same poorly maintained substandard ventilation systems, the same incompetence and negligence in rectifying health and safety issues by management, the same failure to address dangerous methane levers…

    And the same company that owned shares in Pike River owned Upper Big Branch mine as well…

    Its worth a watch just to re- familiarize yourselves with the sort of skulduggery that goes on and also went on under ex Prime Minister John Key. Lets hope Bill English can be more honorable.


  7. Six years ago last month 31 workers entered into the Pike River Mine to work their shift. It is likely they went into the mine talking amongst themselves as to what they would be doing the next day. A few probably had a few chinwags about plans for the future. I believe the wife of one of the miners was pregnant. I bet the father-to-be was excited about the pending arrival of a little one and thinking and telling other of what he had planned for the future. Little did they know they were walking to their doom. And out of the 31 miners on that fateful day only 2 survived and managed to walk out.
    The horrendous loss of life at the Pike River Mine happened almost 2 months after the first 4.9.2010 Canterbury quake and 2 months before the next disaster to hit NZ and the South Island i.e the February 2011 quake that also resulted in a massive loss of life.
    But John Key wasn’t interested in all that. He made token promises because the world media and Prince William were in town and he just had to impress as many people as possible with empty promises. Besides there was a pending election(election 2011)at stake and that is probably ALL the opportunistic and power-hungry John Key was interested in. The fact the 29 miners were probably looking forward to a future wasn’t something Key was bothered with. Dead miners cannot vote and in a Labour strong-hold that is the West Coast Key was probably hoping to influence votes and get the West Coast to be a Blue(National)electorate.
    When the West Coasters saw through the shallowness that is John Key and still kept the West Coast firmly Red Key showed his pure vindictiveness and broke a pre-election promise of “getting our boys(the Pike River 29)out”.
    And so whilst the National government gives a flimsy and dis-interested regard to NZ workers then we should know they(the National lot)will never have any respect of those like the Pike River 29.
    Lets just say that this government is ONLY interested in either votes or quick(and often shoddy)fixes. We have only to look at such events as Cave Creek, Pike River and the CTV building to know that there are still many work environmwnts and places throughout NZ that are faulty due to short-cuts.

  8. Change: We are a modern liberal democracy

    To: We are struggling to continue to being a modern liberal democracy

  9. This cuts to the case of “Is NZ a country of moral decency”? to allow it’s families to retrieve it’s loved ones?

    If the Government continue it’s stonewalling of this subject then they are the ones that are making our Country a place of no moral decency and this must be rammed home every day going forward to this crucial election to get the voters out and banish this evil Government from our midst for their lack of common human decency and morality.

  10. Whilst we all feel the pain of the people who lost their loved ones at Pike River, going into that mine will achieve nothing in real, practical terms.

    At the same time there is significant risk in entering that mine, although clearly some people would put their hands up to have a go. However the mine is now owned by Solid Energy and regardless of the willingness of some to enter, the directors of Solid Energy would be culpable in law should anything happen.

    Pike River, the CTV building collapse and the failure to prosecute anyone for these man-made disasters prompted the new Health & Safety at Work Act and the removal of the H&S element from the Department of Labour. In future we will have the tools to obtain convictions for such events, but more importantly the new Act will prompt people (Owners, directors, managers and workers) to work safely and not cut corners.

    • Andrew, your , um, “empathy” is noted.you might feel differently if your family was involved, I’m your son. Maybe not, hard to tell with people like you.

  11. When the 1995 Cave Creek disaster happened killing 14 young people ,Dennis Marshall the Minister of Conservation resigned.


    “Denis Marshall, New Zealand’s Minister of Conservation, eventually resigned, after the Commission of Inquiry’s report came out. It also resulted in major changes to procedures used by the New Zealand Department of Conservation after it was revealed that serious systemic failures had led to the building of the unstable platform. Eventual changes in New Zealand Law, following a change of government, allowed for government departments to be held criminally liable for inadequate building practices, in the same way as non-government organisations.”

    In the Nact government under John Key absolutely no one has been held to account for the safety violations and lapses which led to the deaths of 29 men! The Minister should also have resigned.


    We owe it to the miners’ families to do a thorough forensic investigation of this crime scene and not cover it up !. This National government must be held to account!

    • Well Chooky we had an honourable Government minister then unlike we have now, so it just shows that common decency and honour is dead with this lousy Government that is due to get the boot next year.

      • I doubt there is dishonour in inheriting a bad situation from a previous government – as is the case with Pike River.

        In Pike River, every party was guilty to some degree:

        The Greenies for blocking in the RMA the company from open casting the operation.

        The government (and several past governments) for undermining the Mines Inspectors and thereby losing competency in the Dept of Labour.

        The companies directors for failing to ensure safety procedures were followed

        The union for turning a blind eye to unsafe practices

        The workers for chasing bonuses at the expense of safety

  12. Let us not forget that had the government of john key reinstated check inspectors. Experienced miners ( usually union members) with a responsibility for safety,(Removed by a previous national government) as recommended, the working conditions in that mine would have been very different. “The 2008 review of mine safety ordered by then Minister of Labour Trevor Mallard was on track to carefully examine the case for reintroducing check inspectors, but after a change of government in 2008 the new Minister of Labour, National’s Kate Wilkinson, failed to address the gap in the system and chose not to reintroduce check inspectors.”
    The mine must be reentered.There are to many unanswered questions.

    • +100 G.A.P…

      …and maybe that is why Kate Wilkinson retired/resigned ?…she should have said so!…but the Nact government did not want to admit culpability

      …so there we have it …29 dead miners and no real admission of government failure of legislative responsibility and compensation for their families

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