Andrew Dickens: The risk and expense of the Pike River re-entry

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Friday, 3 May 2019, 12:29PM
(Photo / Getty).
(Photo / Getty).

So right at the start of my programme yesterday we heard that the re-entry to the Pike River mine was off.

It really was a heartbreaking moment. Particularly for the families. After the years of battles today was to be the day where redemption and recrimination and recovery would start... and then it didn’t. 

This has been the families’ journey since the very beginning.  An emotional rollercoaster bouncing from hope to dashed expectations. Anna Osborne, a miner's mother came out and said the delay is not a show stopper, it’s just a delay.

But that feeling was not shared by my audience.

3 texters and one caller remained positive about the re-entry but the rest were overwhelmingly against the expense and risk.

And the name Winston Peters kept coming up, and for good reason.  It was Winston who offered to be the first in and of course will not be as that was political grandstanding.  But it was also Winston Peters and New Zealand First who made the re-entry a non-negotiable policy for the coalition agreement. That being so, it has continually irritated me that New Zealand First hasn’t taken the lead in the newly created Ministry and in the re-entry they so strongly believe in but many other New Zealanders don’t.

What is also galling is that the Pike River re-entry is being helmed by Labour’s Andrew Little.  A man who at the time of the instigation of the Pike River Mine was head of the EPMU, the union representing miners.  He was therefore an advocate for a known risky venture because it meant jobs for his members. But also risk. Deadly risk.

Maybe he feels he needs to atone but it just doesn’t sit well with me.  Almost all the callers remarked that even though they felt the heat at the time, it appears as if the previous government and John Key were right about the continuing risk and that’s not good for Labour.

One texter made a very moving point that this process has become more expensive. From 10 million when first proposed to the current budget of 36 million.  Margaret wondered whether the living of the West Coast might benefit more if the 36 million was spent on a hospital in the area.  A facility to save lives dedicated to the 29 men who lost theirs, and that’s a fair point.

This thing has become an expensive and risky punt. One where the odds are stacked against it. One where the successful outcome is hard to measure. One which carries political risk for the Labour party and for their coalition partner New Zealand First.

Now more than ever, less people think it’s worth it.

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