John Roughan also puzzled about Bernie Monk et al

via Noted

Every time Bernie Monk and his Pike River people come pressing politicians for the mine to be re-entered I wonder why. Why would they want to disturb that grave?

Their sons and brothers lie where they died, if anything remains of them. If one of them was my son or brother, I think I’d want the mine sealed.

I wouldn’t want to find out whether anything remains. I wouldn’t like the idea of people walking into his tomb to see what might be there. I’d sooner visit that beautiful, remote place sometimes and know he is there in the mountain with his companions, honoured in the grand silence of the rain forest.

Grief takes many forms. ?At times it manifests itself in ways that seem absurd or even close to insane. ?But in this case, enough time has passed for the rough edges to have come off. ?And that leaves one very unpalatable answer. ?Politics. ??

The other reason the Pike River families give for not wanting the mine sealed is that they want to see somebody pay for the poor safety standards of the mine and its operation, and they think there may be evidence in there. It is hard to imagine what that might be. The royal commission was able to make a fairly damning indictment of the mine’s design and management from the testimony of those who had worked in it.

Pike River Coal was convicted of health and safety breaches and ordered to pay the families $3.41 million, which amounted to $110,000 each. The company was broke and said it couldn’t pay more then $5000 to each. The families also received standard ACC payouts totalling $5m plus $217,000 each from a public sympathy fund that had raised $6.2m.

In addition, they have shared $3.4m from the former mine manager, Peter Whittall, under a deal he did with WorkSafe NZ to have 12 charges dropped. Two of the families went to the High Court for a judicial review of that settlement and lost. They went to the Court of Appeal which handed down its verdict this week.

It found WorkSafe’s decision to drop the charges was lawful but said that had it found otherwise it would not have set aside the settlement because payment had already been made. The Council of Trade Unions damned the outcome, calling it “chequebook justice” that had allowed an unrepentant defendant to get his insurer to pay.

Unrepentant? Whittall is living with the deaths of 29 men who relied on his decisions.

Much of the evidence in court was unsigned hearsay and he probably could have defended it but didn’t want the trial. That is why they settled. If the unsatisfied families do not want “chequebook justice”, what do they want?

They have seen workplace health and safety legislation rewritten in a way that now deters the mine’s new owner, state-owned Solid Energy, from accepting the families’ re-entry plan. That and the cost.

The families saw the prime minister this week and he announced he would not allow Solid Energy to seal the mine for the time being. So the issue remains alive for the election.




– John Roughan, NZ Herald