Peters v English on Pike River

As is his habit Winston Peters has been claiming cover ups over Pike River and has been threatening revelations. This is what he presented in Question Time in Parliament yesterday:

3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on Pike River mine; if so, how?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes; in the context in which they were made.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware that there is a drift runner used to transport workers in the mine, located near a borehole by the slimline shaft, and that there is photographic evidence of this?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have no reason to disbelieve the member, and I can advise him that if we proceed—as we proceed with the most recent project, which is to work with the families on unmanned entry using much-improved technology, compared with 6 years ago when that video or photo may have been taken—then we may be able to see in more detail and get more evidence of what went on not just with that vehicle but in the mine in respect of the explosion.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is true, Prime Minister, then why, when he met with the Pike River families in January, did he refuse their request for an HD camera to be put down the boreholes near the slimline shaft, which has already happened before with the official contractor? Why did he refuse—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question has been asked.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not recall that I did, but I do remember a pretty intensive discussion with the families. I do remember them recording their grief, their frustration, their concern for getting manned entry into the mine, and a subsequent agreement that we would have a project focused on unmanned entry because that is a safe way to try to meet some of their objectives, such as finding out whether there is further evidence related to the deaths of their loved ones or related to the cause of the disaster.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If a drilling contractor has obtained the photographic evidence of what is down through that shaft into that mine and the families have asked to also have that information from a later examination of a camera going down there, why did they refuse them in January when they asked specifically for that right?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not recall such a request or such a refusal. It is possible that the request was made; I cannot see any reason why it would have been refused. We do not have the photographic evidence. It will be held by the police or the company. In response to the request of the families, I understand that by the end of this week all the relevant video will be made available to them again, as it has been in the past.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the drilling contractor, who has been paid almost $5,000 per month for two drill rigs to do nothing for 3 years now, is contractually bound to not make any comments or statements upon any matters arising out of his service to the Pike River mine and that his contract has a specific section gagging him from media comment, as is supplied in this document here?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not familiar with the terms, with either the contractor or who he is contracted with, or the nature of the contract itself.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If it all is as he says, why is there a specific, extensive confidentiality clause that prevents the drilling contractor from talking to the media about what he has seen and has evidence of?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a question the member would need to address to the people who wrote the contract and the reason for it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I’m asking you.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not know about any aspect of that arrangement.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If Solid Energy is owned by the New Zealand taxpayer, and if he and his colleagues have nothing to hide and do not think it is a laughing matter that 29 people lost their lives, then why will not he release the drilling contractor from his contract and grant the Pike River families the right to see this information that was taken from within those boreholes?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: On the face of it, I cannot see any reason why all the relevant material cannot be seen by the families. In fact, that was the process of the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy, where the families had legal representation through the length of the whole commission. The commission had full powers to obtain all and any evidence that it wanted. There is an Official Information Act process. As we have said, the families have used that, as I understand it, recently. The police are turning over all the video evidence, and video evidence was made available to the families at a much earlier stage as well.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Can the Prime Minister provide a reason why the Police have from day one done everything possible to keep evidence from the families, including videos and shots from inside the mine?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, as the member would know, we have no responsibility for the operational decisions of the Police. It would be wrong, actually, for me to even try to answer a question about its process. Secondly, he can ask the Police if he wants. Thirdly, from what I have seen, there is no evidence that Police has behaved improperly. Nor can I think of any reason why it would.

Richard Prosser: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In respect of the Prime Minister’s last answer to that supplementary question, Speaker’s ruling 175/3 states that “There is no convention that Ministers are not answerable to the House for operational matters in the departments or agencies falling within their portfolio areas. Even though a Minister may not have legal control, the Minister assumes the political responsibility to the House to answer such questions. Legal responsibility and political responsibility are different things.”

Mr SPEAKER: And what is the member’s point?

Richard Prosser: The Prime Minister was declining to answer Mr O’Connor’s question on the grounds that it was an operational matter.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister did not decline to answer the question. The Prime Minister addressed the question, and certainly to my satisfaction.

Leave a comment

36 Comments

  1. Chuck Bird

     /  May 4, 2017

    Pete, I disagree with you on Pike River. However, I must applaud you on your blog that I can have a different view and not get personal abuse by anonymous cowards. The Pundit goes the other way and I got ticked off for mocking someone who claimed that North Korea was bullied by the the Great Satan, America.

    I will comment more after a late breakfast.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  May 4, 2017

      I am inclined to think that Trump is trying it on the dog-bullying a small country first to see what happens.

      Reply
  2. Chuck Bird

     /  May 4, 2017

    The fact is Winston listened to the families and looked at report the experts the families’ commissioned. He then gave his word that he will do everything in his power to get a manned re-entry if it can be done with very low risk.

    Bill English has not ruled out manned re-entry if Winston holds the balance of power. Do you think he should?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  May 4, 2017

      IF it can be done with very little risk…..

      Reply
  3. Brown

     /  May 4, 2017

    This is just thearter. English has said he doesn’t know about any private arrangements and contracts that may exist (which is superficially quite reasonable) and unless Winston can show he does its all pointless. A bit like Winston really.

    Reply
    • Chuck Bird

       /  May 4, 2017

      Brown, why do you think English will not rule out manned re-entry now and in the future even if Winston holds the balance of power?

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  May 4, 2017

        I can quite believe that Bill English doesn’t remember every detail from things he did 7 years ago-who would ? Peters is stirring.

        There may be a risk that people will become sick of hearing aout this and the same old things being said over and over. Yes, it was an appalling tragedy-will anyone forget the sight of the tables with a little pile of belongings for each man and how far they seemed to stretch out ? But this endless rehashing and nothing new being said is wearing thin, I fear.

        Of course there is an entry tunnel-even I could tell them that, as there always (?) is one.

        Come on, Winston. Put on your helmet and scuba gear and pick up a sledgehammer. I have one in the shed that you can borrow, and it shouldn’t be too hard to find a pick somewhere. What about the one you nitpick with ? Or is that worn out ?

        Reply
        • Winnie would blow himself up the first time he put a Rothmans to his gob.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 4, 2017

            Tut, tut. That’s not true or it would have happened years-decades-ago 😀 😀 😀

            Reply
            • Pete Kane

               /  May 4, 2017

              Plus he smokes Dunhiill – get your facts in order Old Boy.

            • Gezza

               /  May 4, 2017

              trav’s not a person of the male gender Pete. Are you being rude?

            • Pete Kane

               /  May 4, 2017

              Sorry Trav. (You must take a very even handed approach. Mind you it never occurred to me Mike C [for the old hands] was female until it all blew up, and then it just seemed totally obvious.)

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  May 4, 2017

              I thought that Trav was a boy-sorry, Trav.

              I knew that Mike was a girl-we had conversations that were not exactly girl talk but made it obvious that we were two girls 🙂

          • Pete Kane

             /  May 4, 2017

            And I remember those Ms Kitty, it should have been so jolly obvious.

            Reply
  4. Kitty Catkin

     /  May 4, 2017

    But try not to breathe out. Methane is highly flammable, and who knows what would happen if a lot of hot air was suddenly introduced ?

    Reply
    • Chuck Bird

       /  May 4, 2017

      Kitty, the plan for a manned re-entry would involve ventilating the drift no re-breathing gear would be required. This is why Winston supports. The risks would be minimal.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  May 4, 2017

        I should have said that he would be advised not to start talking down there.

        Reply
  5. Brown

     /  May 4, 2017

    Ventilating introduces oxygen and will create a whole new danger that is not present in an inert atmosphere. Breathing apparatus is the safe way for a look.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  May 4, 2017

      Yes, I think you only need oxygen + 5% methane & a spark to get an explosion.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  May 4, 2017

        If a spark’s needed, Winston would be in no danger !

        Reply
  6. Brown

     /  May 4, 2017

    If you increase the methane % it eventually becomes too rich to go bang and at that point its safe to wander about in provided you don’t disturb or go outside that safe balance. I don’t know what the explosive range is but I guess its like welding a petrol tank – safest when the tank is full of liquid petrol rather than vapor because its only the vapor escaping from the liquid’s surface and mixing with oxygen that burns. Got to be careful of course but the science is settled.

    Reply
    • Chuck Bird

       /  May 5, 2017

      Brown, are you mining expert? The family have employed top experts. One worked for the NZ government. My question is if it is unsafe as you and Bill English claim why will English not rule out manned re-entry if Winston holds the balance of power?

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  May 5, 2017

        Methane explosive concentration range is 4.4 to 16.4 % percent (with oxygen or air) apparently:
        http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/explosive-concentration-limits-d_423.html

        Reply
        • Chuck Bird

           /  May 5, 2017

          Gezza, you are not an expert so why will you not answer my simply question about English not ruling manned re-entry out?

          Reply
          • High Flying Duck

             /  May 5, 2017

            I think he has had a consistent position that if manned re-entry is possible he would back it, but all the advice he has received is that it will not ever be possible.
            That is why the unmanned re-entry is going ahead.
            Not sure what you’re getting at – BE hasn’t flip-flopped on this.

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  May 5, 2017

            Chuck I don’t pretend to be an expert. I leave that to Winston. My take on why Bill English won’t rule out a manned entry is because while he is not exactly an inspiring leader, he is not politically stupid. Plus, maybe wot HFD said.

            Reply
            • High Flying Duck

               /  May 5, 2017

              Maybe…

            • Gezza

               /  May 5, 2017

              I don’t like to give you too much credit for being right in case it goes to your head.

  7. High Flying Duck

     /  May 5, 2017

    I’m sure Winston will be offering a fulsome apology now that notes from the meeting in which the footage was shown and the WA robot entry was discussed with family of the miners back in 2011 has been released along with the footage.

    Also confirmation that the footage was given to the Royal Commission in August 2015

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11850662

    Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  May 5, 2017

      “Police say excerpts from this video were previously shown at family meetings in July that year. Selected extracts from the footage were shown publicly for the first time this week.

      Relevant sections of notes from family meetings on March 9 and 16 have also been released today which police say show discussion by Pike River Coal representatives of the robot’s entry to the mine and the outcome.”

      “Clement said the entire video from the fourth robot was released to the Royal Commission of Inquiry in August 2011.”

      Reply
  8. Chuck Bird

     /  May 5, 2017

    Below is a link to the expert’s report commissioned by the families. I do not believe such experts would recommend manned re-entry if there was more than negligible risk. I hope those opposed to manned re-entry read it. I hope there is legislation that police are not allowed to take over a mining disaster again. They are not qualified. The families who have loved ones in the drift have a right to know if they could have been rescued if mine rescue was in charge instead of a country cop. The police have a reason not to want manned re-entry.

    https://www.scribd.com/document/334015727/Pike-River-Re-Entry-Report#from_embed

    Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  May 5, 2017

      I may be reading that report incorrectly but it does appear to be from the Jacinda Ardern school of thought – put together a report that says YES safe entry is possible! And the way to do it is…to say “a feasible way of doing so should be worked out as soon as possible…”

      From the conclusion: (SENZ = Solid Energy):

      “There is no technical mining reason that a re- entry into Pike River Drift could not be achieved safely. A detailed plan should be developed to deliver such a result.

      As the Families’ experts and SENZ Board cannot reach a joint position then only the Government can decide what the future of this mine is. The legal implications of who the future Owners/Operators of the mine would be should be considered as soon as possible.

      Re-entry into the drift as far as 2.1km to 2.3km as a first step should be achievable without exposure to unacceptable risk and would provide the necessary information on how to proceed. We consider that this first step at least should be sanctioned and would meet in part the Governments initial promises to the families.”

      Also, it can only be done by making the Government liable when it goes wrong!:

      “The way forward would require transfer of all responsibilities and liabilities from SENZ to a government entity. The re-entry process should be subject to the oversight of independent professionals with detailed knowledge of the mine and no direct affiliation to the Families who can professionally advise the government and work constructively with the recovery team and the technical advisors to the Families Committee.”

      I thought it was the independent oversight from those not related to the families that have determined manned re-entry cannot be done safely?

      Reply
  9. Chuck Bird

     /  May 6, 2017

    I watched Winston on The Nation this morning. The panel all believed that Bill English will agree to a manned re-entry if Winston holds the balance of power. How can English agree to this if manned re-entry is as dangerous as he claims?

    Reply
    • It’s going to be a huge call by any government to make an exception to the Health and Safety law that was introduced to try and stop a Pike River type disaster happening again, in order to do something that no matter how it’s done will have some risk involved.

      Reply
      • Chuck Bird

         /  May 6, 2017

        Pete, The anti-smacking law was brought in to stop child abuse. These who oppose it do so because it does not work. If the idea of the current H & S law is to eliminate all risk as you suggest it is a stupid law and should be repealed or amended.

        Who do you think should decide if firemen should go in a burning house – the most senior fireman or the local cop?

        Who do you think should decide who should attempt a mine recuse – the most senior mine rescue on the scene or the local cop?

        Do you remember the case that the police stopped medical people from saving the life of a liquor store owner?

        The families have a right to know if more may have been saved.

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  May 6, 2017

        I’m pretty sure kitted up bomb disosal experts have survived detonations. It’s a managed risk job.

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s