Pike River Agency CEO liable if re-entry goes wrong

Andrew Little and Labour intend handing over responsibility of whether a Pike River re-entry attempt is made to the Recovery Agency they are setting up, and if re-entry is attempted and something goes wrong the agency chief executive will be liable. I suspect that applicants for the job may be limited.

Stuff:  Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive liable if re-entry goes wrong, not Andrew Little

The chief executive of the Pike River Recovery Agency will be held responsible if anything goes wrong with the re-entry of the drift.

Last month, the Prime Minister and Andrew Little – the Minister Responsible for the Pike River Re-entry, announced the Government would establish a government department by the end of January 2018 to assess the risk associated with a manned re-entry, and the best way to carry out the entry.

The entry of the mine’s drift, and the recovery of any remains of the 29 men killed in 2010, would be completed by March 2019.

Both Jacinda Ardern and Little said there would be risk involved with a manned re-entry, but it was up to the agency to assess the risk and to mitigate it, and if the level of risk was acceptable, go forward with the re-entry.

Despite promises by Winston Peters and Labour that there would be re-entry into the mine they are handing over responsibility to someone else.

At the time of the announcement, Little said the agency – Te Kahui Whakamana Rua Tekau ma Iwa (The Empowering Voice for the Pike 29) – would answer to him, and as the minister in charge, he would have the final decision.

Apparently not now.

He refused to respond to questions on who would be held liable, under New Zealand health and safety laws, if something went wrong.

However, documents relating to the establishment of the agency show the chief executive of the agency would be held legally responsible if something went wrong.

So Little wasn’t prepared to be up front about what he is organising, and is also handing over both the ultimate decision plus liability to someone else.

A ministerial briefing paper from November 3, said the liability would rest with those instructed by the minister, not the minister.

In order to remove that legal liability, health and safety laws would have to be changed – something the Government decided not to do.

Establishing an independent decision maker from the outset, would provide clarity on who was accountable for the decisions around safety, the briefing document said.

“It sets a clearer level of expectation around single focus and impartial decision making.

“If you wished to retain a departmental model to keep the entity closer to government, then the chief executive … could be given the statutorily independent role of determining whether re-entry should go ahead.

“In addition, without legislation, the Minister could potentially be exposed to accessorial liability in the event that something goes wrong in the course of re-entry activities.”

“A decision about safe re-entry will be best achieved by ensuring the decision-maker is independent,” the document said.

The decision-maker should be responsible for developing “a robust and credible plan” for safe recovery of the drift, including engaging fully with the Pike River families and their experts, and then charged with implementing this plan.

“This provides clear lines of accountability, with the decision maker and implementer of the decision being the holder of the key duties of care around ensuring health and safety.”


December 2016: Winston Peters says Pike River re-entry is bottom line to election deals 

Winston Peters says re-entering Pike River mine is a “bottom line” to any election deal made next year.

In interviews this morning, Peters also reiterated his claim that he will enter the mine himself.

“I’m making no bones about it, we’ll give these people a fair-go, and yes this is a bottom line, and it shouldn’t have to be”.

Any political party seeking New Zealand First’s support to form a government in the 2017 election will have to commit to re-entering the mine.

September 2017: Pike River families give their blessing to Jacinda Ardern as she visits region where Labour started

Ardern met with family members at the Pike River memorial on the West Coast to re-state her commitment to re-enter the mine in which 29 miners died following explosions in 2010.

“After all this time, the least we can do is the right thing,” she told them.

Anna Osbourne, whose husband Milton was among those killed, said she was hoping for a change of Government to ensure the re-entry went ahead.

“We’ve had lies, we’ve had broken promises, so I’m hoping for a change of Government,” Osbourne said.

October 2017: Winston Peters meets Pike River families

Families spokesman Bernie Monk told media in Wellington they knew they had Mr Peters’ support.

“He’s a man of his word, and we’re going to support him the whole way… We’ve got full faith in Winston Peters and what he’s going to do.”

Asked if reentering the mine was still one of NZ First’s bottom lines, Mr Peters responded: “What do you think? How many times do I have to tell you?”

The Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement specifies: “Commit to re-entry to Pike River”.

October 2017: Pike River manned re-entry possible early next year – Little

The minister responsible for re-entry into Pike River, Andrew Little, hopes to get people in to the mine by April next year.

Mr Little told Newhub’s The AM Show today that he had two comprehensive reports and he believes manned entry is entirely achievable.

“There are risks – but there’s risks [in] doing anything.

“So lets clear all that stuff out of the way, lets look at what we know is there, what we know that the technology and the science tells us is possible, and work up that plan.”

The plan seems to be to make someone else make a decision on re-entry and to be liable if anything goes wrong.

4 December 2017: Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive liable if re-entry goes wrong, not Andrew Little

Ardern was asked whether she was comfortable with the legal liability resting on the shoulders of the chief executive.

“I’m confident that we’re going to go through a process that means we’re going to dot all of our i’s and cross all of our t’s,” she said.

“We’ve given ourselves enough lead time to make sure we do this properly.

“But the point ultimately is whether or not we’re doing right by families and that’s what we’ve undertaken to do.”

Gobbledegook and duckingdeduty.

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  1. Strong For Life

     /  5th December 2017

    The laughs keep coming, thank you Mr Little. Arch-hypocrite Little said when he was secretary of the union that the mine was safe. He also said the mine was safe when he was Leader of the Opposition. Now the story has changed… What is going on Mr Little?

  2. PG – why are you at all surprised? Anyone with more than a passing knowledge of HSE would have known you can’t contract out responsibility. Winston and Andrew were just posturing with absolutely no courage on their beliefs. And the vocal miners’ families were so anti-National, they got suckered in – no doubt they will soon be saying how they really believe Winston and all will be fine.
    Be interesting to see who takes the CEO job. May I suggest Blazer would be a good candidate?

  3. David

     /  5th December 2017

    Not surprised really, the dishonesty from this newly minted government is becoming quite a regular thing…just a collection of slogans and spin.
    Little just bare faced lied to the reporters and to the NZ public by bigging it up about going in when in effect his position is no different to Nationals. I expect Winston to be unexcited about this and expect no reaction from the very partisan families.

  4. Corky

     /  5th December 2017

    It’s called a cop-out. National now takes the moral high ground. Labour could have gain many political browny points for handling this issue correctly. This government is proving itself vague, confused and dishonest. All grist for the mill.

  5. Seabird

     /  5th December 2017

    So Little, Ardern and Peters have all said they would enter the mine. Now they are indicating their responsibility to some other poor sucker who will take the rap if it goes wrong, but they will take the quodos if it goes the other way. Who would want the job???

  6. Gerrit

     /  5th December 2017

    Who is going to take that job to be responsible for the HSE on reentry. Nor many takers I would guess which is a strategic excuse that prevents reentry. Cant find an applicant to take responsibility.

    No fall guy/gal to be suckered in, no reentry.

    But that is just the start.

    Another problem will be finding volunteers to reenter the mine alongside Winston Peters, Bernie Monk, the families and Andrew Little.

    Who will go in?

    If the mine is to be established as a crime scene, the police and forensic teams will need to go in.

    Will their employers allow them? Will the the police commander, who orders in the investigative team, be responsible for the HSE of their staff? And if a policeman/woman refuses due to fears for their personal safety (which we are individually responsible for under the HSE laws) will there be repercussions?

    Same for the forensic investigators and their employers.

    For without legally accountable investigation teams, no blame can be apportioned and no one bought to trial.

    I would think that Bernie Monk and the families will be mightily disappointed in the government they placed so much faith in.

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  5th December 2017

    They deserve to be roasted by the media for this. But will they?

    • Gezza

       /  5th December 2017

      Judging by Emmerson’s cartoon PG posted today, absolutely. The msm doesn’t just smell a drop of blood in the water with this coalition they smell an entire abbatoir.

      • Gezza

         /  5th December 2017

        Hillers didn’t just give Bill an easy ride giving Labour a serve or two this morning on Breakfast tv, she was positively charming & promised to send him her Xmas cake recipe becos the Mrs told him as he’s in Opposition now he’s got thevtime to make it this year. She showec a video clip on his Facebook page where he’s asking for recipes. Jack Tame came on afterward so I switched off as it felt like the desk was suddenly empty.

    • Corky

       /  5th December 2017

      Yes, pity Jonsey is in the media spotlight at the moment. Msm can only handle one issue at a time, otherwise their intellect is spread too thinly.

      • Gezza

         /  5th December 2017

        Nonsense. On 1ewes, Andrea 😖 will cover The Joneser & Ardern wrestling over Couch Slouches to Work For The Dole Sorry Minimum Wage Or Whatever, Katie 🙄 will cover Andrew Little looking like a Possum in headlights 😳 & Jacinda 👸🏻 wrestling with trying to present that as delivering on their Promise, & possibly also Winston 🏃🏽 being probably unavailable for comment – although covering 3 people may exceed her abilities as far as her capacity to handle 3 conflicting inputs 💥 – and Corin 🕶 will be asked by Simon to comment on his assessment of what this all means for the coalition & to speculate on whether its looking like curtains already for this lot.

    • Strong For Life

       /  5th December 2017


      • Kitty Catkin

         /  5th December 2017

        If that had been my husband, I’d want a really good monument and the proposed money to go to a good cause instead of being spent on bringing out some dust and crumbs of bone that could be anyone.


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