The Soap Box: Who's responsible if something goes wrong during Pike River re-entry?

Author
Barry Soper ,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 21 November 2018, 6:25AM
Since the explosion at Pike River, health and safety across all industries has been tightened by law  Photo / NZPA
Since the explosion at Pike River, health and safety across all industries has been tightened by law Photo / NZPA

Andrew Little was asked if he'd resign, if the re-entry to the wrecked Pike River mine early next year failed and he ummed and ahhed without giving a firm answer when the answer was bleedingly obvious. Of course, he'd resign, his portfolio would cease to exist, the cause would be lost and that'd be an end to the matter.

The bigger question, put to the Prime Minister saw her in a pickle, fumbling for words. That was whether the Government would resign but the answer to that is also bleedingly obvious, of course, it wouldn't.

The fallout since the much-heralded decision in front of weeping families, this time last week, to go into the mine at the latest cost of $36million has seen an ugly side to the politics behind the issue.

The politics of it actually began before the last election with Winston Peters making re-entry his coalition bottom line. As a young man, Peters worked in mines in Australia and he seemed to say going into the Pike River one was a piece of the old proverbial. In fact, he even offered to be the first to go in, as the mine canary, which will never happen of course, even if it would be a less expensive and safer option for others who'll be expected to trudge into the tragedy.

The politics have been cranked up to another level since the decision was made to go in. The Beehive's now thinking about offering a formal apology to the families. What they would be doing, of course, is apologising for the last Government erring on the side of caution, listening to the advice they had that it'd be too dangerous to go into the mine.

But this Government says it'd also be apologising for the lack of health and safety around at the time. Well while they at it, Andrew Little as the trade union leader responsible for some of the miners who perished should also be apologising for not taking a stand at the time for the peril his members were being placed in.

John Key apologised to the families after the Royal Commission identified a lack of safety around mining, but blamed successive Governments for that, and his Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson resigned as Minister because the explosion occurred on her watch

Since the explosion at Pike River, health and safety across all industries has been tightened by law to such an extent that if you haven't signed a waiver before leaving the office and you're run over by a bus, your company could be liable, or for that matter so could the owner of the bus.

And that brings us back to the mine's re-entry. Who under the law's responsible if something goes wrong? Not the Minister who's made the decision to go in, but the Recovery Agency's boss, former head of the army Dave Gawn. Let's hope he doesn't need a flak jacket.

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