Not all Pike river families approve of re-entry

‘Pike River families’ has often been put forward as one unified group wanting re-entry to the mine and recovery of the bodies, but at least one family opposes the re-entry plan, calling it disgraceful.

Recent news reports refer to the families collectively:

Andrew Little on Pike River: ‘Re-entry is about fulfilling a promise to the families’

“Re-entry of the Pike River Mine will proceed. To the Pike River families, to New Zealand, we are returning.”

Pike River relatives on mine re-entry: It’s a ‘truly amazing day for our families’

Friends and family of the 29 men killed in the Pike River Mine disaster say an agreed plan to re-enter the mine is a historic moment of truth and justice.

Sonya Rockhouse, who lost her son Ben in the disaster, told Morning Report the change of government had made a huge difference to the families’ campaign and the previous National government had failed them, she said.

Bernie Monk, who also lost a loved one, said it was a proud day for all Kiwis.

Anna Osborne said it was a historic moment for truth and justice and that the announcement was a “truly amazing day for our families”.

“We fought really hard for our men for a really long time and today, this is a victory for our families,” she said.

“This is a victory for the little people of New Zealand.

Pike River Recovery Agency (Government website): Family Reference Group

The Pike River Recovery Agency works in partnership with the Family Reference Group, who represent the overwhelming majority of the Pike River families.  Here they introduce who they are:

‘Stand With Pike’, the families of more than 80% of Pike victims, have fought hard for answers as to why this happened or, more to the point, why no-one intervened to stop it.

24 of 29 is 82%, so that means up to five of the families are not represented.

And one of those five has spoken up – Mother of Pike River victim: Re-entry plan ‘disgraceful’ (RNZ):

Christchurch mother Marion Curtin says she was left sitting by her phone feeling raw after the announcement of the Pike River Mine re-entry yesterday.

Her son, Richard Holling, never came home after the November 2010 tragedy, but she wanted it to stay that way.

Some people might assume that all 29 affected families considered yesterday’s news as a “victory,” she said, but she was one of the silent many who disagreed.

She said the plan was an “appalling” waste of $36 million.

“I’m just so disappointed. I couldn’t believe that cabinet would sign this off,” she said.

Especially given the lack of certainty, she said, with nobody able to tell her exactly what the mine recovery experts would be looking for.

“I see it as sacrilege, really. To go in fossicking around for remains… to go in just to see what they find – I think it’s just disgraceful,” she said.

Ms Curtin loathed the fact it had become so political. She said the months leading up to last year’s election were especially challenging.

“Some people liked that… the politicians climbing on board. I certainly didn’t. That was my son’s death they were playing with.” she said.

While yesterday’s news had been extolled as a “huge victory” and a relief for the people in Greymouth, Ms Curtin did not feel this way and refuted the idea that she was in the minority.

Different people have different ways of dealing with grief. I’m not sure that that is well enough recognised by the recovery agency and the politicians promoting re-entry.

Following the loss of her son, Ms Curtin said said she had just been trying to get on with her own life.

“I remember Richard with love every day. But for me a good day is when I don’t hear Pike River mentioned. I don’t dwell on Pike River.”

Repeatedly bringing the tragedy up in the news can be hard for some people.

And if the re-entry ever gets to the stage of finding bodies, can they respect the wishes of some families, any families, who don’t want ‘fossicking around for remains’?

 

Primary school cancels prizegiving because it discourages non-award winners

Silverdale Primary School has cancelled their end of year prizegiving, and have explained in a newsletter:

End of Year Prizegiving

There has been a lot of talk about the cancellation of the end of year prizegiving. Just to clarify some misconceptions about cancellation of the end of year prizegiving.

1. Sports teams will still be based on skill and a selection process.

2. There will still be placings at school events such as cross country, athletics, swimming, speech competitions. Some of these events have trophies and these will be handed out on the day or at the next assembly.

The end of year prizegiving was used to award children in each class:
– Most improved
– Commitment to Learning
– Classroom Citizen
– Excellence in Literacy and Mathematics

Out of a class of 20 to 30 children how does a teacher choose one child for each award? Don’t we want all our children to improve, have commitment to learning, show citizenship and to have excellence in literacy and mathematics

By rewarding a few we find that it discourages the others.

We are trying to get our children to succeed because they want to succeed and not because of a reward at the end which is subjective at best. The sporting awards are easy to give out, if you win the cross country race you get first, not subjective. Everyone can understand this.

Try explaining to a child that has tried hard all year with their learning that they didn’t get the Commitment to Learning award because someone else was trying harder, this is subjective. How do you judge who tries harder??

We will continue to hand out Principal Awards and Team awards throughout the year, these certificates are based on our values and recognise what children have done.

I hope this goes some way to answer your concern.

From Newsletter 35 (PDF)

Original source: Silverdale [Primary] School cancels end of year prizegiving because it discourages those that do not win awards

Keep in mind that this is at a primary school where they don’t have exams.

There seems to be a bit of contradiction in not giving out ‘subjective’ end of awards but continuing to give out Principal Awards during the year, which must also be subjective. From my experience with Principal Awards (given to grandchildren, they didn’t do them in my day and we called the boss a headmaster) they are rotating awards that include all pupils over time, and often are for very subjective and grand sounding attributes.

Player of the day awards to sports teams are also often rotated.

There are different ways to see this. I understand the need to encourage every child to learn, and never winning an award may well be discouraging. We didn’t get learning awards at primary school in my day and we seemed to survive without them.

But there can also be benefits for awarding those who strive, and who do very well.

Perhaps the Government could follow the lead of Silverdale Primary and cancel the Queen’s Birthday and New Year gong handouts. I have been very discouraged by not winning one (that’s sarcasm – while some community awards and recognition of services may have merit I oppose knighthood and damehood sort of awards).

 

A trivial matter

Year 13 students are complaining about the use of the word ‘trivial’ in a history exam (in a quote by someone called Caesar) because they didn’t know what the word meant. And the chairman of the New Zealand History Teachers’ Association agrees that it is ‘unfair to test comprehension’ in an exam.

I’m not sure if this acceptance that lack of knowledge of the meaning of words is an alarming indictment of our school education, or it is a sign of changing times.

Stuff: Students launch petition after being flummoxed by word ‘trivial’ in NZQA exam

Year 13 students are worried they might fail their history exam because they didn’t know what the word “trivial” meant.

The senior students have launched a petition asking for the essay to be marked based on students’ own definition of the “unfamiliar” word. It has so far received more than 1300 signatures.

As of now there are 2159 signatures. The  petition:

The year 13 History Causes and Consequences essay has made the decision of including an unfamiliar word (trivial) which caused much confusion among the students who were sitting the exams on the 14th of November 2018.

The word which many students were not particularly familiar with meant that student’s had to write the essay based on their own understanding of the word. Many of which were different to what the word actually means; meaning that the true potential of many students are going to be covered.

This petition is made for the government to recognize the true potential of the students and mark the essay based on the student’s own content and understanding of the event. Please do not feel threatened for this is only a petition to recognize the hard work and efforts put in by many across the country.

Stuff:

Students sitting the NZQA Level 3 History causes and consequences paper on Wednesday were confronted with the word in a quote from Julius Caesar: “Events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

Students were asked to analyse the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with Caesar, with reference to the causes and consequences of a historical event.

Taieri College student Logan Stadnyk is one of those who sat the paper and signed the petition.

He said he was “lucky” to understand the word, but at least half of his class didn’t.

Now the students were worried they could be penalised.

Some of his peers thought trivial meant “significant”, he said.

“Trivial isn’t a word that you hear too frequently, especially not if you’re in Year 13,” he said.

I’m not sure how those who write exam questions can ensure all words used are frequently heard by 18 year olds.

Chairman of the New Zealand History Teachers’ Association, Graeme Ball, agreed.

He called the exam a “little bit of a snafu” on the part of NZQA, and said the language used in questions should be “accessible to all”.

The exam was not testing comprehension, so it was “unfair” to make that part of the assessment, he said.

I learned that being able to comprehend exam questions was quite important, but that was quite a while ago.

Should students be able to take a dictionary into exams? Do they have dictionaries these days?

But should Year 13 students know the word “trivial”?

It was “debatable”, he said. “I don’t think we can make assumptions about what students should and shouldn’t know at that level,” he said.

A spokeswoman for NZQA said the language used in the question “was expected to be within the range of vocabulary for a NCEA Level 3 History student”…

I would have thought so.

…but candidates would not be penalised for misinterpreting the word ‘trivial’.

How the hell does that work. Can students who state they don’t understand a word answer a question however they like? Or do exam markers guess if meaning is not understood and allow for that in marks? I guess that is kind of normal.

But not understanding a word like ‘trivial’ doesn’t seem like a trivial matter.

Should exam questions be dumbed down to avoid any student not understanding words used? Or should meanings of any tricky words be included in exam papers?

Or should vocabulary be taught in schools?

 

General chat

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Submitting to the Criminal Justice Advisory Group

It’;s fair to say I am not entirely happy with my experiences with the judicial system. I think there are ways it can be improved, so I have approached the Criminal Justice Advisory Group offering some input. They are visiting Dunedin and I will be able to meet them.

I have specific issues to address, but am open to other ideas to put forward.

Any suggestions on how our judicial system could be improved?

From Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata Safe and Effective Justice:  Criminal Justice Advisory Group to visit the regions

The Safe and Effective Justice Programme Advisory Group – Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora – is visiting towns and cities across New Zealand to hear what people want from their criminal justice system.

They will hold a series of meetings from mid-October 2018, including public drop-in sessions.

Chair of te Uepū, Hon Chester Borrows said he is looking forward to hearing from people whose lives and work are affected by the criminal justice system, and canvassing ideas on how it can be improved.

They will be in each region on the following dates:

  • Taranaki: 15 November
  • Whanganui/Manawatū/Horowhenua: 16-17 November
  • Otago/Southland: 19-21 November
  • Wellington: 23 November
  • West Coast: 27-28 November
  • Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa: 28-29 November
  • East Coast: 3-4 December
  • Tasman/Marlborough: 10-11 December

They plan to carry out further public engagement in 2019.

You can also make submissions: Tell us your views

We want to hear your views so we can have a conversation about building a better justice system.

What we will do with the information you give us

  • We will read the information you give us, and analyse it so we understand it.
  • We might use the findings to propose recommendations to the Minister of Justice on changing the justice system.

Submit here: https://safeandeffectivejustice.govt.nz/have-your-say/your-views/

 

 

‘Closure’ may be elusive in Pike River re-opening

The Press Editorial: Pike River decision is a victory for justice

The decision to re-enter the Pike River Mine in early 2019 has been a long time coming and does not have universal public support. Some see it as merely a triumph of public relations and emotion, or of election promises over tough realism.

But they are arguably a minority voice.

That is certainly arguable, with nothing to support this claim of minority dissent.

While it is clear that a lot is at stake for a Government that made a commitment to the Pike River families – and particularly for Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little, who has campaigned so vigorously – most New Zealanders will be both sympathetic to the suffering of those family members who support re-entry and will also see the value of answering questions about a disaster that killed 29 men on the West Coast eight years ago.

Politicians are bad at overusing unsubstantiated ‘most New Zealanders’ claims. While editorials are opinions it’s disappointing to see a major newspaper prop up their views with assumptions.

Those who argue that the grieving families should accept their losses and move on are therefore overlooking the fact that justice has been elusive in the Pike River case.

Crap. Some maybe. But I don’t overlook the justice aspect. What I think though is that the re-entry may struggle to do justice to identifying causes as much as it may struggle removing the remains of the miners (especially all the miners).

For the families who support re-entry, led by representatives Anna Osborne, Sonya Rockhouse and Bernie Monk, the announcement of the re-entry speaks to a dogged determination that is both a tribute to the memory of lost family members and a wider commitment to truth over political and bureaucratic obfuscation.

As Dave Gawn has suggested, there is a good chance there will no bodies in the drift of the mine. If that happens, you can expect to hear a familiar chorus of voices calling the re-entry an expensive stunt. But it will be just as important to learn whether evidence has been gathered that can progress a criminal case and might even lead to the apportioning of blame that the doomed mine’s former manager seems so eager to minimise.

I think there is a high chance of disappointment in the first attempt at re-entry. What then?

NZ Herald editorial: Expensive Pike River re-entry plan does not go very far

There was never much doubt the present Government would grant the wish of Pike River families to re-enter the mine as far as that may be done safely.

The fact those two were able to walk out of the mine after the explosion suggests no others were in the tunnel, but for some of the families, as the past eight years have proved, hope springs eternal.

If the re-entry discovers no human remains, there is at least the possibility forensic evidence will be found pointing to the cause of the first explosion and permitting those responsible to be held personally to account at last for 29 deaths.

A royal commission of inquiry produced damning conclusions of the cause of the disaster based on testimony of those who knew the mine, and the mine insurers have made a payout to the families, but it is possible something found in the tunnel will provide a clearer explanation, possibly even an indictable one.

I think it’s unlikely much in the way of useful forensic evidence will be found in the initial re-entry.

On these remote possibilities the Government is staking $36 million, an extraordinary increase on the $7.2 million plan put to the previous Government just five years ago. And yet the minister in charge, Andrew Little, has obviously chosen the cheapest of three options put to him by the Pike River Recovery Agency.

Little and his recovery agency do not sound sure of what they will be able to do beyond the second chamber only 170m into the 2km tunnel. Little said, “There is a lot we don’t know and will not know until we are confronted with the situation as we find it”.

He added, “This will require agile thinking, the courage to say if we are uncomfortable, the preparedness to re-assess, reset and re-plan when necessary, and knowing when to call it quits”.

Clearly a lot could go wrong.

Hopefully nothing major will, go wrong, but the chances of everything going right may be slim.

But the families that have been pressing for a re-entry for eight years have been rewarded for their persistence.

They managed to successfully play political pressure game.

They have never sounded hopeful that a recovery effort could get further than the rockfall. They must accept this plan could get that far and find nothing of their loved ones. If nothing else, it surely provides the “closure” they need.

Really? I’m not clear on what ‘closure’ actually is (apart from closure of the mine which they opposed). I think it probably means different things to different people.

If it means making everyone happy I’m not optimistic.

The seventy year old prince says he won’t interfere as king

Prince Charles is now 70 years old. That’s a long time to wait for a throne, and he may have to wait some time yet, if he survives his mother.

Prince Charles ‘will not be an interfering king’ and ” I’m not stupid, when I’m king I won’t meddle”:

1 News: Prince Charles says he’ll stay quiet about controversial topics when he’s King

Britain’s Prince Charles has pledged not to interfere in the affairs of state when he becomes king, seeking to dispel concerns about his past activism on issues ranging from global warming to architectural preservation.
In an interview for a documentary marking his 70th birthday, the heir to the throne told the BBC that he understands he will have to act differently when he becomes king.

In 2015, he lost a long court battle to prevent the disclosure of 27 letters sent to government officials on matters such as badger culling, fish protection, military readiness and the preservation of historic buildings.

The “black spider” memos, so called because of Charles’ cramped handwritten greetings and closings, were controversial because some saw them as inappropriate lobbying by the heir to the throne.

But Charles defended his past actions, including establishing the Prince’s Trust in 1976 to help disadvantaged young people, saying he had always steered clear of party politics.

He generally steers clear of New Zealand too. If he becomes king of New Zealand he is unlikely to have much influence.

New Zealand Republic: Prince Charles “won’t intervene”, so what’s the point?

“If as New Zealand’s monarch Charles won’t act in any constitutional issues, and leaves us to sort things out for ourselves, then it’s time to drop the charade and make our Governor-General New Zealand’s actual head of state as New Zealand Republic proposes” continued Mr Holden.

“The Royals are in a no-win situation. Their supporters argue that the value of the monarchy is having someone overseas, outside of New Zealand able to adjudicate our constitutional issues should they arise. Yet Charles himself has confirmed that he would never want to be dragged into those issues. The claim the monarch provides a separate check is false, and the man who might be King has confirmed that”.

Some people like some connection to celebrity/royalty, but a King Charles is going to struggle against growing and much younger competition.

 

General chat

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Bungle over tree planting in Northland, seedlings mulched, money wasted

Minister of Planting Lots of Trees, Shane Jones, has admitted there has been a stuff up in a planned planting of 1.2 million pine trees in Northland. Only 200,000 seedlings could be planted as most of the land was not sufficiently prepared for the planting. Some seedlings were redistributed, but many were mulched at a cost of $160,000.

This is particularly embarrassing because in May this project was promoted as the first of a billion trees to be planted.

Stuff:  Forestry projects get Government boost

Northland forestry projects which will create jobs and sustainable developments have been given a helping hand by the Government.

Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) and the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust have signed a joint venture agreement to plant and manage around 3,600 hectares of pine trees on the trust’s land. Up to 465 hectares of mānuka will also be planted, which would provide work experience for young people.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime and Forestry Minister were among those gathered at a symbolic tree planting ceremony on May 31.

Ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Forestry Minister Shane Jones, and MP Willow-Jean Prime planted a pine tree to acknowledge the announcement on May 31, which marked the first joint venture in the Government’s plan to plant one billion trees.

But this week (ODT) Billion trees bungle: Land unfit for planting

Forestry officials working on the Government’s flagship One Billion Trees plan ordered more than one million pine seedlings for a block of land so choked with scrub and weeds planting couldn’t go ahead.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones told the New Zealand Herald “ambition” and “enthusiasm” had a part to play in planting delays which struck the $32 million inaugural joint venture on the Far North forestry block.

(RNZ): Local iwi takes blame for $160k tree planting botch-up

The local iwi have taken responsibility after about 400,000 seedlings bought by the government to plant in Northland went to waste after the land was too wild to plant on.

Ngāti Hine has put its hand up with the trust chair, Pita Tipene, saying he’s ultimately responsible.

“What the taxpayer and the government can be assured of is that the total number of hectares over the years will be planted as planned.

“It’s just that we made a little bit of a blue in 2018 in being over zealous in our planning.”

Mr Tipene said it’s not the end of the world because the land will still be there next year and it will be ready to be planted – albeit it later than the government hoped for.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the cost to the taxpayer was about $160,000.

A deal was done between the Crown and the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust in the Far North earlier this year and 1.2 million seedlings were bought to be planted.

Mr Jones said only 200,000 seedlings were successfully planted because the land wasn’t up to scratch.

“Well the land is untamed land, it’s wild, and obviously the analysis that was done on the ground was a lot more ambitious in terms of what could be delivered upon,” he said.

It looks like they (Jones, the Government and Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust) rushed into this without being properly prepared, or were too optimistic that they could manage this scale of planting so quickly.

Jones wanted greater power to push projects past bureaucratic delays, but this suggests he needs more checks on his recklessness with large amounts of taxpayer money.

We now we see these unelected journalists for what they really are?

This is remarkable commentary from Newshub’s ‘national reporter’ Patrick Gower: Simon Bridges is finished

I don’t think that it’s his call to make. It is the business of the National caucus. And if Bridges survives through to the next election, it will be up to voters.

It’s been 62 days since Newshub Political Editor Tova O’Brien got that excellent scoop of Simon Bridges’ limousine expenses.

An excellent scoop? It was a leak of expense information that was die to be released publicly in several days time. The story was not the expenses, which were high but explainable.

The story was the attempt to undermine Bridges by an MP who, later at least, suffers from bad enough mental health problems to seek several months leave from Parliament, and to be committed into mental care with claims of a suicide attempt (that was claimed by Cameron Slater so should be viewed with caution).

Tova O’Brien was effectively aiding and abetting a political hit job – and Gower appears to be doing likewise now.

This was a sophisticated hit from the leaker, setting in motion a political train wreck that’s now at bullet-speed – full-scale political carnage.

I guess it could be called ‘sophisticated’ as the political hit job was done with the collusion of a journalist and a media organisation.

Gower seems to see glee in setting in motion a political train wreck and precipitating ‘full-scale political carnage’ – except that he is over-egging a rotten pudding.

We now we see these elected representatives for what they really are; concerns over possible mental health issues have been tossed aside in the rush to the kill or be killed.

There is no humanity.

What we actually saw was non-elected journalists tossing aside mental health concerns as they shilled for a political kill – and now Gower seems to be ecstatic over the thrill of the kill.

This is alarming from a major media organisation. Is Newshub alarmed about what they have been used for?

Meanwhile, National isn’t addressing the important issues. There are not enough teachers for our classrooms and there’s not enough money in our wallets to pay for petrol.

Actually that’s bullshit. National have been accused more of the opposite – of criticising too many things. They have certainly been trying to address teachers and petrol prices.

The only thing in Bridges’ favour here is that National is short of contenders.

More bullshit. There may be one less contender in National, but they still have 54 MPs as alternatives to Bridges. Ity’;s just that now would be a stupid time to contest the leadership, which would reward the maverick MP and activist journalists for their hit job.

But back to Simon Bridges – this is about him and how he’s not handling the job – or connecting with the public.

This was obvious enough to political observers for months. It didn’t need an attempt to force Bridges out of the leadership role to point that out.

Ironically Bridges has probably strengthened his leadership after Newshub’s collusion in trying to have him dumped.

The only chance National has to get back in power is a deal with Peters.

More bullshit. That’s not the only way for National to get back into power. Currently their coalition options look grim, but under MMP there are a range of options, including:

  • Act could make a miraculous resurgence
  • Greens could support a National led government (unlikely at this stage but it can’t be ruled out)
  • Labour and National could form a grand coalition
  • the Maori Party could return and support a National-led government
  • a new party could emerge and beat the threshold
  • National could split and get enough votes between two parties to form a government
  • National could get enough votes to form a government on their own (they have come close in the past)

Last term Gower often obsessed over National needing NZ First to stay in government. Until the Little/Ardern switch it looked very unlikely Labour would have been able to form a government, so National were in the box seat.

And the way Winston keeps burning Bridges, that will never happen.

That’s why Simon Bridges is finished.

Winston burns anyone when it suits him – and then forgets all his rants and promises and flip flops if it suits him.

It may actually be more likely that Winston will be finished after the next election. There’s certainly a bigger chance that NZ First will crash and burn than National.

It doesn’t matter how many days are left, Simon Bridges, because there is no chance National can win in 2020.

That’s a pathetic claim from someone who remarkably used to be Newshub’s political editor.

And it hardly even makes sense – he implies that National has no chance regardless of Bridges leading them or not.

This is very poor commentary from Gower.

Worse – it seems that he supports and is ecstatic about collusion between an MP with mental health problems and journalists and media in a concocted coup attempt.

Gower can be dismissed as out of touch and irrelevant, but Newshub look very poor here and have seriously diminished their credibility as politically neutral media.

Bridges and National have problems – that’s normal for any political party. But National at least are likely to survive, and are likely to eventually get back into Government, with or without Bridges.

Newshub have a bigger challenge trying to survive. While the Jami-Lee Ross headlines may have given them a temporary boost to ratings and clicks, it has seriously damaged their already struggling reputation.

Gower hasn’t helped – he has emphasised how low they have stooped on this.