Reform for Official Information act

It’s debatable whether the Official Information Act needs reforming, or if Government Ministers and officials need to be required to comply with the Act as it is. There has been creeping avoidance of complying properly with the Act over successive Governments.

Listener: Information wants to be free – why is the OIA an obstacle?

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has been blunt: the advice that ministers receive from their officials has been deliberately dumbed down, as a consequence of the Official Information Act (OIA).

Its vital contribution to our freedom and governmental accountability has, over successive administrations, been undermined by fear. Subtle and even blatant political heavying from ministers and officials’ self-protective desire not to cause trouble have led state agencies to increasingly refrain from offering potentially contentious advice, because they know it will become public and embarrass them and/or their minister.

Another growing trend has been deliberately to delay compliance with an OIA request, or flat out deny it.

Boshier has reversed the latter trend in his two years in the role, partly by making it clear he will name and shame those who fail to co-operate in good faith with the OIA’s processes. But he’s right to say we need new leadership to restore the Act to full efficacy and public respect. In his briefing to the incoming Government, he has usefully clarified the law as it stands, and as he believes officials should adhere to it.

That suggests that the Act may be sufficient as it is as long as it is complied with.

The headline clarification is a presumption that all official information will be released, and released in a timely manner, unless there are special reasons not to.

A further one is that officials asked to release something under the OIA must not then ask their ministers whether they may do so. It is their obligation to release it unless exempted, and they are only duty-bound to tell ministers to avoid surprises.

Ministers shouldn’t be involved in decisions on what should be a process, not a choice.

Boshier is on the record as noting a culture of transparent Government has to start with strong leadership.

Some have called for the Ombudsman’s office to have stronger powers of coercion, including making serious non-compliance an imprisonable offence. But a better buttress to information freedom would be to automate Boshier’s newly elucidated presumption that all information can be released unless it would cause a serious mischief.

Why not a system where, by default, all background papers to a governmental decision are released automatically? This could perhaps happen after early consultations, but before legislative proposals are finalised. Rather than relying on people to request information, why not put the onus on a department or minister to seek, via the Ombudsman, permission not to release it?

It is, after all, our information.

The OIA came up in Parliament yesterday, with Brett Hudson questioning the Minister of Justice Andrew Little. Transcript (with bickering and diversion edited out):

9. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister of Justice: What reform is he planning to make to the Official Information Act 1982?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): The Act is almost 35 years old, and the public’s expectations about access to official information are greater now than ever before…the Official Information Act is the responsibility of the Minister of Justice. As stated in the Speech from the Throne, this Government will foster a more open and democratic society—

Brett Hudson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just note that the Minister in his response claimed that the Act was under the responsibility of the Minister of Justice. I refer that Minister, and your good self, to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) website, which is very clear in the delegations for the Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government) that all matters of official information and the Official Information Act are under the delegations for that Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: And I’m going to deal with that. It was a matter that was referred to because it was a question about where the question was going. The Act is administered by the Minister of Justice.

Brett Hudson: Under his planned reform, will it be the norm for the Chief Ombudsman to have to make a recommendation in order for documents to be released?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The approach that this Government has taken to official information is to look to the report of the Law Commission in 2012, which the previous Government did nothing about; the recommendations of the Chief Ombudsman in 2015, which the previous Government did nothing about; and to look to questions of attitude and behaviour, because that is the way we will change the effectiveness of the Official Information Act.

So will Little, Ardern and the government walk the walk and “to look to questions of attitude and behaviour, because that is the way we will change the effectiveness of the Official Information Act”, because the OIA ball is in their court.

 

Adams v Little on Pike River re-entry liability

In Parliament yesterday Amy Adams questioned Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry, about liability for any decision to re-enter the Pike River mine.

There is a lot of credibility and responsibility riding on mine re-entry for Little and Labour.

 

7. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry: Who will bear potential liability under health and safety legislation for any re-entry of the Pike River drift that he approves, and what is the range of penalties that could be imposed on them in the event of a breach of workplace safety obligations?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Hon Andrew Little, I will indicate to the House that I have been informed by the Minister’s office that this is likely to be a longer than normal answer, and, because of the important nature of it, I’ve allowed that.

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry): Thank you, Mr Speaker. To the first question: there are potentially many people liable as required under the Health and Safety at Work Act, which was passed by her Government. This includes employees, contractors, and subcontractors. Health and safety after all, as we all know, is a shared responsibility.

To the second question: in so far as the member would be aware that I am unable to give legal advice, the penalties in the legislation range—depending on whether they are an individual or a company—from an up to $50,000 fine for failing to comply with a health and safety duty or up to five years in prison or an up to $3 million fine for reckless conduct exposing someone to the risk of death. These penalties will only be applied where the agency fails to meet its obligations. But I can reassure her that I have every intention of ensuring that the re-entry work is consistent with health and safety obligations.

Hon Amy Adams: What was the recommendation from his Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials on the optimal decision-making structure for Pike River re-entry, given those health and safety obligations, among other things?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I received advice from MBIE and also from the State Services Commission, and I followed the State Services Commission advice, which was for an arrangement that allowed for maximum accountability to this Parliament. That’s what I am here for.

Hon Amy Adams: Why did the Minister reject official advice that a decision about safe re-entry will be best achieved by ensuring the decision maker is independent, with the decision maker being the holder of the key duties of care around ensuring health and safety?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: In putting together this project, I was acutely aware that the previous Government had handled the families involved in this matter in a completely shabby and appalling way, and I wanted to ensure that the arrangements we put in place allowed for full accountability to this Parliament, engaged the families fully and properly, allowed for good quality advice at all levels, and complied with our health and safety legislation.

Hon Amy Adams: Why did the Minister reject advice that the best decision would come from an independent decision maker?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I got a range of advice, including from the State Services Commission, which expressed their preferred option about having a structure that allowed for maximum accountability to this Parliament as well as flexibility and responsiveness. The member should read the papers properly.

Hon Amy Adams: On what basis does the Minister think it’s reasonable to expect public servants that report to him to carry the burden of criminal responsibility for decisions that that Minister makes?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member misunderstand the law that her Government put in place called the Health and Safety at Work Act, and she misunderstands the implied obligations in every employment agreement for every employee. Every employee, contractor, subcontractor—anybody involved in a task—has duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act. No employee under our employment law can be required or instructed to undertake unsafe work, and no employer can issue an instruction that is unlawful and unreasonable—and that won’t happen in this project.

Hon Amy Adams: I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library for my office that makes it quite clear that the chief executive of the agency is criminally responsible.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to the tabling of that document? There appears to be none.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

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.”

Gobsmacked.

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.

“Actually not that hard” reducing prison population by 30%

Andrew Little, in an interview on The Nation this morning, spoke about his plans to reduce the prison population by 30%, saying “it’s actually not that hard if we choose to resource it properly.”

That’s optimistic – and ‘resourcing it properly’ alongside resourcing health ‘properly’ and resourcing education ‘properly’ and paying for all the Government’s promises and commitments might be a wee bit challenging.

@TheNationNZ:

Little says they’re going to take a sensible approach to reducing the prison muster.

He says there are people in prison who with proper assistance could be set up as productive citizens again.

“We’re not only sending more people to prison, we’re sending them there for longer” says Little, and some prisoners can’t be paroled because there aren’t the resources for them to do the necessary courses.

Little says there’s merit in setting up a sentencing council to ensure consistency in the decisions.

Ministry of Justice research says that more Police officers means more people in prison – but Little says the style of Policing for the 1800 new officers will be around deterring crime.

Time will tell where idealism meets realism. I wish Little well with this, really. Crime, imprisonment rates and mental health problems and drug and alcohol problems are all too big, but reducing them all with budget constraints will be a bit of a challenge.

NZH reported on this: Andrew Little says he will reduce the prison population

The Minister of Justice and for Courts has revealed how he plans to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent during the next 15 years – by ensuring offenders with mental health problems get better rehabilitation and that judges are consistent in sentencing.

Speaking to Three’s The Nation Andrew Little said he was going to approach the issue “very sensibly”.

“It’s actually not that hard if we choose to resource it properly.”

Although some hardened criminals needed to stay locked up because they were a danger to society, a “whole chunk” of prisoners were there because they were battling other issues which had driven their offending, he said.

Too many people with mental health problems and other issues weren’t getting the help they needed while in prison, Little said, and so were unable to meet the conditions they had to get parole.

Ensuring they were properly rehabilitated would make it easier for ex-prisoners to integrate back into society and reduce reoffending.

He also revealed he would review how sentencing and bail was being managed by the courts.

Part of the reason our prison population was so high was because we were jailing people for longer, he said.

Little said the issue was not necessarily with the legislation, but instead more likely stemmed from how it was being applied and enforced.

“What we do have to do is get some consistency.”

Little would also look into how bail was being administered. He questioned whether it was reasonable to lock up many people who had been charged but were yet to be tried.

While there was “no question” the safety of the community needed to come first, it needed to be balanced against the actual risk offenders awaiting trial posed to the public.

Full interview here.

Advice on Pike River Recovery Agency

Andrew Little, Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-Entry, has released advice on establishing the Pike River Recovery Agency.


Pike River Recovery Agency advice released

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little has released advice on the establishment of the Pike River Recovery Agency, Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau mā Iwa.

Mr Little says the Government is committed to being open and accountable, and there will be continued transparency as work progresses on the manned re-entry of the Pike River Mine drift.

“We’ve been up front with the families and public on what we are doing and that remains important in terms of trust and confidence in this process and its robustness.  That’s the sort of openness that this Government is committed to in how we work.

“The families have been clear that safety and transparency are priorities for them and we’re working side by side with them, making sure that they, and their experts, have a voice throughout this work.

“The decision to establish the Pike River Recovery Agency is an important milestone so people should see the information surrounding that decision. Once the agency’s up and running, it will operate on a transparent basis, making sure relevant information is in the public arena.”

The Pike River Recovery Agency will be established on 31 January 2018 by Order in Council. It is expected that the agency will create and execute a plan for complete recovery of the drift by the end of March 2019.

The documents released include the 20 November Cabinet paper and advice provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) ahead of the decision to create a stand-alone government department to plan for decisions on the manned re-entry of the Pike River Mine drift.

The documents are available at: 

No prosecution over CTV building collapse

The police have decided not to prosecute anyone over the CTV building collapse in the Christchurch earthquake. Not surprisingly this has dismayed many people.

RNZ: CTV decision ‘not trial by expert’

A criminal prosecution against the designers of the CTV building was abandoned even though engineers said it was clear substandard design led to the collapse.

On Thursday, police announced they did not have sufficient evidence for a successful prosecution.

“If I’d taken my heart’s advice, we would have prosecuted. I can’t take my heart’s advice, I have to use my head,” Detective Superintendent Peter Read said.

Documents released by the police show the Crown Solicitor had concluded there was enough evidence to lay charges of negligent manslaughter against designers Alan Reay and David Harding, after a three-year $1.2 million police investigation.

The centrepiece of that investigation was a report by the leading engineering firm BECA that lays out a dozen major deficiencies in the structural design.

“It is our opinion that, had the whole building complied with codes and practices of the day, the building, though damaged, would have had sufficient resilience not to collapse suddenly and in a pancaking fashion,” BECA said.

“Dr Reay’s omission to discharge his obligations in regard to the allocation of appropriate resources to the design were the reason why the design errors were not identified and corrected, and was therefore a substantial and operating cause of the deaths.”

BECA and the two peer reviewers agreed that Dr Reay and Mr Harding did not fulfil their duty to design up to code – a major departure from expected standards, which was a substantial cause of the collapse.

This sounds fairly damning. I wonder how many other buildings around the country are substandard?

But Deputy Solicitor General Brendan Horsley pulled back, saying “this is not trial by expert” and he considered the prospects of a successful prosecution were low, as did the Crown Solicitor.

“A key difficulty for the prosecution would be in proving the CTV building would not have collapsed in the absence of the identified design errors,” he said.

“The expert peer reviewers were cautious about drawing this conclusion.”

An American peer reviewer, who is not named, said it was possible the collapse could have occurred in the absence of design errors due to higher than expected ground motions in combination with the building’s lack of resilience.

The documents explained that the building code at the time did not demand adequately strong columns for resilience in high-risk zones.

However, a New Zealand peer reviewer pointed out other buildings of a similar age and type withstood the quake and that the designers did not take into account the building having to move sideways in a quake.

I don’t think anyone expected such a dangerous earthquake in Christchurch. That other buildings withstood the quake could be due to range of factors. The specific site the CTV building was on may have been particularly vulnerable.

The building’s designer Dr Reay said he was “deeply anguished.”

In a statement, he said: “I have tried to understand why the building characteristics changed after the September 2010 earthquake and then ultimately collapsed.

“It is my strongest hope that from this tragedy every possible lesson is learned.”

I’m sure he is anguished.

Certainly lessons will have been learned, it’s important that they are.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said he wanted to consider introducing a corporate manslaughter charge in the future.

“Everybody involved in this has walked away scot-free. And that’s not right,” he said.

He’s not right – I’m fairly sure that anyone who thinks they could have some degree of responsibility for this tragedy carry a heavy burden.

Would a prosecution be in the public interest? Would it achieve anything useful?

Would Little be happy for politicians to be prosecuted if laws were found to be at fault in a tragedy?

If there was deliberate cutting of safety corners in building design and construction then certainly charges should be a strong possibility. But for human error?

Should designers and builders of buildings found to be substandard and have survived so far because they haven’t been subject to devastating earthquakes be prosecuted?

Should council planners and geologists who didn’t foresee the risks of the Christchurch land that was built on be culpable?

Or should it be ensured that lessons are properly learned and acted on in the future, and leave it at that?

 

Pike River prosecution withdrawal unlawful

RNZ: Pike River prosecution withdrawal unlawful – Supreme Court

It was unlawful for WorkSafe to withdraw its prosecution of Pike River mine boss Peter Whittall, in exchange for payments to the victims’ families, the Supreme Court has ruled.

WorkSafe New Zealand initially laid 12 health and safety charges against Mr Whittall, but they were dropped after more than $3 million was paid to the victims’ families.

Earlier hearings in the High Court and Court of Appeal ruled the decision to offer no evidence to the charges was not unlawful.

In October, lawyers for Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse, who both lost family members in the 2010 explosion, asked the Supreme Court to issue a declaration that the dropping of charges arose from an unlawful bargain.

In is defence, the Crown argued the reparation payment was just one of several factors taken into account in withdrawing the charges.

It also had to consider the possible unavailability of witnesses and the fact a trial could take between 16 and 20 weeks.

In today’s decision, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal and ruled the decision to offer no evidence was “an unlawful agreement to stifle prosecution”.

RNZ has extensive coverage of this here.

Little to make decision on Pike River

Pike River re-entry will ultimately be a political decision, with Pike River Minister Andrew Little having the final say.  After saying there would be definite re-entry during the election campaign it has morphed into a maybe.

NZH: PM Jacinda Ardern: Pike River re-entry the goal but not at any cost

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Pike River Minister Andrew Little set out plans for the new Pike River Recovery Agency, including a target of re-entry by March 2019, after Cabinet signed off on it on Monday.

Little said he personally would make the decision on whether to go ahead with a re-entry into the drift of the mine after the agency conducted risk assessments.

The agency would be set up from January and would work closely with the Pike River families on the process.

Labour committed to a re-entry as part of its election campaign, but has since said that was not an absolute guarantee.

Ardern said her commitment to the families was to do everything within the Government’ power to attempt a re-entry, but safety would be priority.

She said it was possible there was information the Government was not aware of, or expert advice that countered the advice the families had. If that happened, it would work through it with the families.

“There will be risks. Our job is to mitigate them as far as possible and to weigh up whether there is an acceptable level of risk. But as I’ve said, there were risks every day that those miners walked into that mine.

“The risk they took on was an unacceptable level of risk at the hands of the company they worked for. Now it’s incumbent on us to make the right decision to try and re-enter that drift, but we have to do it with all the information.

“Any decision to re-enter will be based on a thorough technical assessment of the risks and advice on how the risks can be mitigated. The families know that we will not endanger any more lives, and that has been one of their most important principles.”

Lowered expectations of body recovery.

Stuff editorial: New rulers but the same old problem at Pike River

A new group of politicians is promising to re-enter the Pike River Mine to retrieve the bodies of the miners. So once again the grieving families of the miners are hoping to find their loved ones.

But in the end the result might prove to be the same: that the mine cannot be safely entered, and the families will again be left high and dry. In which case the grief and the outrage will go on.

Andrew Little, the minister in charge of the re-entry, says it won’t happen if it is too risky. “I am not going to put anybody at undue risk. I am simply not going to,” Little said.

So how is that different from what the last lot of governing politicians said? Former National Prime Minister John Key said he would do everything possible to get the bodies out. Labour politicians promised to do something similar. NZ First leader Winston Peters made the most dramatic pledge: he would go into the mine himself.

Perhaps the main political difference right now is that Little is working alongside the families and involving them in the project. He has the advantage that he is part of a new government that has not yet disillusioned the grieving relatives.

Working more closely with the families of dead miners may help the Government avoid criticism and reduce pressure – for now.

Perhaps that is why the families find it understandable that the new Government’s promises of re-entry contained caveats over safety. But they also think it “unlikely” that the risk assessment would uncover something they didn’t know.

The brute reality, however, is that no government could allow re-entry if it is unsafe. Here, however, it seems likely that the experts will disagree. And in that case the final decision will be made by politicians – Andrew Little and his Cabinet colleagues.

The scope for political trouble here is huge, partly because Peters has already decreed that it is safe to go into the mine. He cannot back down on that without damaging his own credibility and infuriating the families.

But the big decision – and responsibility- is with Little.

Because in the end the decision must be the Government’s. If the re-entry results in more deaths in this terrible place, the Government will be blamed, regardless of the recommendations its experts made.

And here the political issues are tangled. The families are grieving and clearly some of them feel that they can never stop grieving unless the bodies are recovered.

But outside this small group there is no large constituency with a passionate commitment to re-entering the drift. Nearly everyone agrees that more casualties in the mine would be a catastrophe compounding a previous catastrophe.

The families, understandably, are likely to have a different view of the safety risk from most other people. That is another reason why the final decision needs to be made by someone whose emotions are not as fiercely engaged.

Or as politically involved.

There will be family and political pressure for Little to enable re-entry. There are real risks regardless of his decision.

Little softening on Pike River re-entry

The reality of Government responsibility may have set in as Andrew Little commits to a decision on re-entry of the Pike River mine, but he won’t commit to re-entry, citing safety is a priority.

NZH –  Andrew Little: No ‘absolute guarantee’ of Pike River Mine re-entry

Pike River Mine minister Andrew Little says he cannot guarantee a re-entry of the mine and has told family members that he will do what he can but safety is the top priority.

Little will take his proposals for the membership and structure of the Pike River Re-Entry Agency to Cabinet on Monday after commemorating the seventh anniversary of the disaster at Pike River tomorrow.

Those plans include another risk assessment to decide whether a manned re-entry is possible.

“When we get to the point where we’ve done the planning, done the risk assessment and we’re at the point where we make a decision yes or no, they will be part of that decision.

And in the end there can be no absolute guarantee. But what we can guarantee is that we’ll do the job properly, plan, prepare and assess and they will be involved every step of the way.”

He said that would involve assessing whether any risks could be mitigated and on the advice he had seen so far, that was likely.

“Ultimately, and the families are very clear, the first principle of the set of principles that are governing what we do is safety, the safety of anybody involved in the re-entry project. I’m not going to put anybody at undue risk. I’m simply not going to.”

This seems to be a less certain stance.

As Labour leader, Little had promised a manned re-entry to the drift of the mine to look for the remains of any of the 29 miners who died in the November 2010 explosions and any evidence.

 

In January:  Labour leader Andrew Little makes Pike River re-entry bill an election promise

Labour leader Andrew Little has promised to table a bill in Parliament to help re-entry to the Pike River mine drift.

A Labour Government would get the families’ experts and Solid Energy’s experts together with the aim of coming up with a plan for re-entry, he said.

“The only excuse the Government has given so far for not helping the families get re-entry to the drift of the mine is they are concerned about liability of the directors. Well, we can fix that through legislation.”

In 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.

On Tuesday evening said Peters was so confident in the expert plan and as “someone with some experience” in working underground, he would have no problem entering the mine drift.

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,” he said on TV’s Paul Henry show on Wednesday morning.

In May 2017: : Huge Cover-up Over Pike River Mine Re-Entry

There is no doubt that there has been a huge cover up by authorities after the Pike River explosion that killed 29 men, says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“All along the police and the government have maintained it was not safe for anyone to enter the tunnel.

 

“The fact is this evidence proves that it is safe for a search party to go in,” says Mr Peters.

In August: Cross-party agreement pledges a reentry of Pike River Mine

Jacinda Ardern says a Labour Government would reenter the Pike River Mine.

“The Pike River disaster was unacceptable. Twenty-nine people shouldn’t die at work in New Zealand, nor should even one person lose their life while earning a living,” Ardern said in a press release on Tuesday.

“It’s unacceptable that the families don’t have answers seven years later. More and more footage is coming out suggesting we haven’t been told the full story.

“Re-entering the drift will mean we can recover some of the men, and evidence of the cause of the explosions. That will help deliver justice and answers, and bring the men home to their families.”

In September:  Jacinda Ardern visits Pike River, reiterates recovery pledge

Jacinda Ardern has reiterated her commitment to creating a special government agency charged with recovering bodies from Pike River mine.

“We’ve always had specialist advice that says it is possible to do a safe, manned re-entry and that’s what we’ve committed to,” Ms Ardern said.

“[In the last seven years] we’ve had lies, we’ve had broken promises, and we’re quite frankly sick of it,” she said.

If elected as Prime Minister, Ms Ardern says she will create a specialist government agency dedicated to finding a way to safely re-enter the mine in stages to recover bodies and gather evidence.

Included in Labour’s first 100 days pledge:

  • Establish the Pike River Recovery Agency and assign a responsible Minister

They have done that.

Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement:

  • Commit to re-entry to Pike River.

After all that the Government is now going to do a risk assessment and decide whether re-entry is safe or not, and “in the end there can be no absolute guarantee”.

Green horse trading bombed

A leaked Green email suggests an attempt at negotiating with Labour over some minor policies – and Martyn Bradbury is having a fit over it.

Stuff:  Horse trading between Labour and Greens to get NZ First’s ‘Waka Jumping’ bill across the line

Labour, NZ First and National have all decried a Green Party MP’s suggestion that horse trading could be used as a negotiating tactic to get a national “Parihaka Day”.

The Green Party is considering opposing NZ First’s “Waka Jumping” bill – a deal struck in coalition talks – unless Labour gives it a national “Parihaka Day”.

Green Party justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman, in an internal email obtained by Stuff, suggested some horse trading with Labour to acknowledge the fact the party has long opposed waka jumping legislation.

Ghahraman’s suggested her colleague Marama Davidson’s bill, which recognises the anniversary of the invasion of Parihaka by making it a National Day, be put on the table for Government support.

That’s an odd sort of policy trade.

Justice Minister Andrew Little, deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and National deputy leader Paula Bennett have all rallied against the idea of horse trading, saying its use is inappropriate when it comes to getting legislation through.

Little said he supported the idea of a day to commemorate the Māori land wars, but didn’t want to see a national “Parihaka Day” the subject of some “cheap horse trading exercise”.

The “Waka Jumping” bill has been drafted by Justice Minister Andrew Little and the email suggests he’s already agreed to some amendments.

Peters said he wasn’t aware of the conversations between Little and Ghahraman but NZ First didn’t horse trade.

“We don’t sell our principles, we don’t either half-way in or half-way out. If something is sound we’ll back it … but I think horse trading on matters of principle are thoroughly bad.”

Peters wouldn’t say if he supported the idea of a national “Parihaka Day” other than to say “if an idea’s got merit, it’s got merit on its own”.

Bennett said it was “disgraceful” for any political party to think they could horse trade on any matter.

“It should be seen on its merits, for what it is, for what value it adds to democracy and for the people of New Zealand, and not just something you can trade away for something else you see as important.”

Isn’t that what the post-election negotiations were all about? I thought deals and trade offs were a major part of politics.

In the email Ghahraman said Little had “unlawfully” shown her a “ministerial advice paper” about proposed waka jumping legislation but not the full text of the bill.

In response Little said Ghahraman had likely misunderstood his “dry sense of humour” and he was making a joke that he was possibly breaking “Cabinet protocol”.

“I made a flippant remark … it was the advice paper as a precursor to the paper that goes to the Cabinet, which is ultimately the basis of the legislation. No unlawful activity was entered into.”

A spokesperson for the Green Party said this was an “internal document that was sent in error”.

Seems like some inexperience from Ghahraman , and possibly also from Little.  It’s embarrassing that this has been made public.

Martyn Bradbury is seriously unimpressed:  How ill prepared are the Greens for Government? This ill prepared…

They want  to blackmail the Government into supporting an idea that stands on its own two feet? Wouldn’t that in fact dishonour the very values Parihaka Day is supposed to espouse?

Are they listening to what they are saying for Gods sake?

This leak means the idea is utterly dead. There’s no way Labour or NZ First could look like they have been blackmailed into supporting Parihaka Day when they would have likely supported it anyway.

I’ve had my concerns about the Greens for some time, this leak has been a cringeworthy exercise in seeing how right those concerns were.

It gets funny when Bradbury gets into Peters’ fiscal doom territory.

Why does Winston want this waka jumping legislation in place?

He wants it in place because he knows there is one hell of a global economic correction coming and he knows the first thing the right wing do when a crisis of that magnitude threatens their wealth is they buy who they need to protect that wealth.

Winston is inoculating his own Party from having MPs who can be bought by National when the economy hits the skids, that’s why he included it in the negotiations with Labour. With that law in place he knows he can hold his Party together when the worst hits. This is a stability measure that holds the new Government together, what the internal memo shows is that the Greens seems to have no fucking clue as to why Winston wants this law, and they don’t understand that passing it strengthens the stability of the Government they themselves are part of!

Some people have a bit to learn about being in and supporting a Government.

Bradbury seems to have forgotten how National handled an actual global economic correction – everything they do has to be bombed apparently.