Government respond to Little’s Pike River pledge

Yesterday Opposition leader Andrew Little said he would table a bill in Parliament removing liability from the directors of Solid Energy so that the Pike River Mine can be re-entered.

He said the government claimed the mine could not be re-entered because of the liability risk, so on the first day of the new parliamentary year he would seek leave to table his bill.

That would exonerate Solid Energy’s directors from being held liable for any harm to people taking part in the mine re-entry, he said.

Mr Little said the victims’ families were promised everything that could be done to recover their loved ones’ bodies would be done, and the government needed to follow through on that.

– Little bill to enable Pike River re-entry

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith responded today.

RNZ: Govt: Labour’s Pike River plan ‘hypocritical’

The Labour Party’s attitude to re-entering the Pike River Mine is hypocritical and unsafe, according to the government.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith accused Mr Little of a dangerous and contradictory position.

“It would be extraordinary to make an exemption from the Health and Safety at Work Act at the very place where 29 workers lost their lives from inadequate standards that triggered the new law,” Mr Smith said.

“This is a bid by Mr Little to outplay [New Zealand First leader] Winston Peters politically rather than taking a principled stand about the importance of a consistent approach to workplace safety.”

Dr Smith said his advice showed the mine had 100,000 cubic metres of methane and was likely to have a residual source of heat as well.

This would be capable of triggering an explosion if there was a source of oxygen.

The minister added there was a risk of rock falls from unstable strata fractured by the 2010 explosions.

“There is a significant difference between someone saying re-entry might be possible compared with company directors taking legal responsibility,” Dr Smith said.

There’s been a lot of other criticism of Little’s move. He lobbied for stronger safety provisions in the current law, and now wants to put them aside to allow re-entry into an unsafe environment.

Some of the Pike River families have tried to escalate mine re-entry into an election issue, but it’s early in the year and it will be difficult to sustain the party posturing.

Little’s response to Niue report

The Auditor General has not found anything of concern in the awarding Niue hotel management contract  after being asked to investigate by Andrew Littler after Little hasd said that it “stinks to high heaven”.

For now Little is not backing down.

Stuff: AG clears contract at centre of political donations row

The Auditor General has found there was nothing unusual about the selection of Scenic Hotel Group as the operator of a Niue tourism resort at the centre of a political row over a six figure donation to National.

Auditor General Lyn Provost said from the available information her office had found there was a standard procurement process with reasoned and documented analysis for the selection of Scenic Hotel Group to operate the resort, and for the subsequent investment of New Zealand international development assistance funds in expanding the resort.

The contract was referred to Provost by Labour leader Andrew Little after he questioned the company’s links to National.

Little is now being sued for defamation by the Hagaman’s after refusing to apologise and retract a statement that the deal “stunk to high heaven”.

Little said in a statement the limits to Provost’s mandate meant she was unable to address the key issues he had raised.

“I have a duty as Leader of the Opposition to raise questions in the public interest and respond to media stories on the use of public funds.

“Taking the issue to the Auditor-General was the right thing to do.”

He would not comment further as the matter was before the courts.

So at this stage Little intends to let the defamation action take it’s course.

See Inquiry into Niue Hotel management contract