Prime Minister John Key will be in Christchurch today to
apologise to the families of the miners who died in the Pike
River tragedy more than two years ago.
In a letter detailing the apology he will give, which was
delivered to the families of the 29 men last week, Mr Key
said he "deeply regretted" the loss of life and suffering
caused by the mine explosion.
The Prime Minister's apology comes a month after the release
of the Royal Commission of Inquiry report on what caused the
explosions at the West Coast mine in November 2010.
In his letter Mr Key said he hoped the report, which
highlighted corporate and regulatory failures, gave the
families some answers and gave them some closure.
"On behalf of the Government, I want to reiterate my apology
to the families, friends and loved ones of the deceased men
for the role this lack of regulatory effectiveness played in
the tragedy," he wrote.
Neville Rockhouse, the mine's former health and safety
manager whose son Ben died in the disaster, warned Mr Key
would be walking into a "hornet's nest" when he met the
Mr Key had backed away from a body recovery plan which he had
previously committed to, Mr Rockhouse told National Radio
Recovering the bodies was dependent on the drift (main
tunnel) being reclaimed.
"We would love John Key to agree to that today but we doubt
very much that that will happen. It would be great if he
walked in there and said he was prepared to sign off a tunnel
reclamation project," he said.
If these efforts proved it "was beyond all hope getting any
further into that mine" then the families would take steps to
turn the area into a burial site, he said.
The Government yesterday released its plan to implement all
16 mine safety recommendations made by the royal commission,
and has said it will move as quickly as possible to implement
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, acting Labour
Minister Christopher Finlayson and Energy and Resources
Minister Phil Heatley will oversee the recommendations, aimed
at addressing systemic failures in the health and safety
"We owe it to the families of the victims of Pike River to
ensure we follow through promptly on every recommendation the
Royal Commission has made," said Mr Joyce yesterday.
A new independent regulator will advise the Government on
several key recommendations and it is due to report back on
New Zealand's entire workplace health by April next year.
The changes will also address the recommendations for worker
participation in mining health and safety management, more
detailed health and safety management responsibilities for
company directors, and statutory mine managers, management
training and emergency management planning.
The complete response to all recommendations is due to be
completed by the end of next year.
Mr Rockhouse was supportive of the Government's
implementation plan, saying the legislative changes would be
part of the Pike 29's legacy.
- APNZ and Greymouth Star