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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pike River Inquiry

Miners' families look to inquiry for answers
It hasn't been much of a holiday season for grieving families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River mine.

But the new year is bringing fresh hope of getting some closure, and answers, for the West Coasters.

Bernie Monk, whose son Michael, 23, was among the dead, told the Herald any hopes of retrieving the remains of the workers - after a series of explosions in the West Coast coal mine since November - were diminishing by the day.

For his family and others, attention is now turning to the royal commission of inquiry into the tragedy, and what it will uncover. They are adamant the whole inquiry must be held on the West Coast, so the families can take a full part.

I must admit to being really surprised by some of my fellow NZers scramble to heap praise during the painful wait upon the Mine boss, Peter Whittall, I'm with Matt McCarten on this one...

Eventually someone will be held culpable
Someone has to say it. The collective media swooning for Pike River boss Peter Whittall is just wrong.

Of course Whittall is devastated about the miners' deaths. But he is also the guy in charge of protecting his workers and his company may have failed in that duty.

Instead we have sainthood surreally foisted on Whittall by the media and politicians alike, anointing him as the public face of national mourning for his dead employees and subcontractors.

Yet under his watch, 29 men were killed and still lie entombed. Family members and friends of the dead have been robbed of a loved one. Many other workers, as a result of the explosion, will lose their livelihoods.

Unbelievably, the chief executive of this company becomes a media darling.

In the cold light of day with the many safety concerns that had been previously aired cutting through the love fest the mainstream media created around Whittall, there are some bloody huge questions about this mine.

In the modern age, NZers do not expect large numbers of workers to die in mass incidents, we have strengthened labour laws and safety precautions to avoid these types of tragic catastrophes and yet it happened. Why?

The whanau impacted by this dreadful moment demand justice, if the role of deregulation has had a hand to play in this tragedy, NZers will be angry. Allowing industry to self regulate DOESN'T work, they cut corners and that costs lives.

This inquiry must ask the hard questions, if we want mining to play a part in our economy, then it needs to be properly regulated, not simply left up to the mining companies.


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