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.

Labour hiding details of MP’s past

It’s not just the Greens not being completely open and honest about the past of new MPs. L:abour has deliberately left details out of Tamati Coffey’s profile.

For many New Zealanders, Tamati Coffey is a familiar and friendly face: an award-winning presenter whose work in the broadcasting industry has spanned a decade. Since leaving full-time television in 2013, he has actively pursued a career in politics.

Tamati’s career has taken him all around New Zealand, and had him engaging with communities right across the country. It’s partly through this work that he has seen the inequality in our society — the wealthy have become more wealthy, while those with much less are holding down 40-hour jobs on minimum wages and having to resort to food banks to feed their families.

His involvement in politics has been spurred on by a concern that our people are currently not being provided with the basics: decent housing, decent wages and jobs, and support for those who need it. Tamati believes Government has the ability to change lives for the better, and wants to make sure those decisions are made by people with their hearts in the right place.

“Since leaving full-time television in 2013, he has actively pursued a career in politics” is hiding the fact that Coffey is currently on television.

See Viewer tells Tamati Coffey stop speaking Māori but TV boss ignoring the ‘rednecks’ – are Labour deliberately fudging the fact that Coffey speaks Maori?

What else are they trying to hide?

The 100 day reckless mistake

Any new Government will need time to find their feet, get their offices organised, and get adequately staffed. Likewise incoming Ministers, who will need time to get properly informed about their portfolios. The Government and especially the Minister of Finance needs to take proper stock of the books and properly evaluate the costs of any proposed policy changes.

This is especially the case when the Prime Minister was recently and suddenly elevated to leadership of their party, has never been an MP in Government before, most of her Cabinet has never been in Government before and one of the Government parties has never been in Government before.

It may have seemed like a good campaign trick, but promising a very ambitious policy programme to be implemented within the first 100 days in office, with many of those days being a holiday shut down period in Parliament, has put a lot of pressure on an already hard pressed administration.

Labour’s commitment: Taking action in our first 100 days

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Make the first year of tertiary education or training fees free from January 1, 2018.
  • Increase student allowances and living cost loans by $50 a week from January 1, 2018.
  • Pass the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, requiring all rentals to be warm and dry
  • Ban overseas speculators from buying existing houses
  • Issue an instruction to Housing New Zealand to stop the state house sell-off
  • Begin work to establish the Affordable Housing Authority and begin the KiwiBuild programme
  • Legislate to pass the Families Package, including the Winter Fuel Payment, Best Start and increases to Paid Parental Leave, to take effect from 1 July 2018
  • Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis
  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain
  • Resume contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to help safeguard the provision of universal superannuation at age 65
  • Introduce legislation to set a child poverty reduction target and to change the Public Finance Act so the Budget reports progress on reducing child poverty
  • Increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour, to take effect from 1 April 2018, and introduce legislation to improve fairness in the workplace.
  • Establish the Tax Working Group
  • Establish the Pike River Recovery Agency and assign a responsible Minister
  • Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care
  • Hold a Clean Waters Summit on cleaning up our rivers and lakes
  • Set the zero carbon emissions goal and begin setting up the independent Climate Commission

This 100 day plan was released as part of Labour’s policy during the 2017 election campaign.

On top of that a number of enthusiastic Ministers have been trying to push their own pet projects.

It isn’t surprising that the Government is showing increasing signs of struggling to cope.

And there’s a real risk of stuffing things up in the rush. Gezza posted this yesterday:

I don’t conveniently forget anything. I’ve worked in departments thru complete Administration between National & Labour numerous times. Every seismic shift between right & left brings in a bunch of newbie Ministers & those who don’t know how the normal, legitimate processes of government work quickly learn from the BIM onwards with their departments that policies signalled by Opposition parties during campaigning which require significant resource use or change to systems & legislative can rarely be rushed into effect without being first worked through thoroughly – for practical reasons – to identify & minimise risks of adverse consequences (fuck ups that will hit the media & embarrass) the Minister & government) not apparent in Opposition because they don’t know the operational details, exactly what work is required, how long it takes to develop and operationalise the policy (contractors did all our IT system changes – that requires design, testing, debugging, sorting out inevitable conflicts within complex IT structures etc).

I’ll just ignore the rest. It’s irrelevant to my point. I don’t give a toss which administration is in power. They all run the risk of screw ups if they pressure departments to rush things. These matters are drawn to their attention. They have to be. The convention of Ministers taking responsibility when their departments gets something wrong (especially when they disregarded advice) disappeared with the Douglas administration & so it is necessary for these matters to be raised & recorded more than ever as Ministers nowadays default to blaming their departments.

Labour is bound to have no hopers in their Cabinet lineup. Every government does. For me it’s a test of how good the PM is at the job how quickly they move them out & replace them with a good Minister.

That’s a big enough challenge with any new administration, but it has been made more difficult with the self imposed 100 day rush.

On a number of policies not in the 100 day list Ministers have been fobbing off, saying details would be sorted out and advised ‘in due course’. That’s ok for some things, but keeping a handle on the policy costs and their implications for overall finances is a real concern.

What may have sounded decisive during the election campaign looks like a mistake, and is at real risk of being reckless.

Party websites post-election

An odd thing about the Labour Party website. Under Team / Labour MPs  they only show 28 of their 46 MPs. It appears to be the MPs who have returned to Parliament, with none of their new MPs there.

Their ‘Latest’ news is Our first two weeks, posted over two weeks ago.

I guess they have been busy negotiating and then getting their Government on the road.

NZ First has nothing at the moment:

Website Down for Maintenance

Please follow us on Facebook or party leader Winston Peters on Twitter for updates.

– NZ First

Greens are up to date with their ‘Our People’ page.

An interesting thing with their home page photo:

James Shaw is currently sole leader of the Greens.The will decide on their new female co-leader in April, eight months after Metiria Turei stepped down.

Marama Davidson was placed second on the Green Party list for the election, but she wasn’t given ministerial responsibilities, with Julie Anne Genter, Eugenie Sage and Jan Logie all preferred over her. She is relatively inexperienced, becoming an MP just under two years ago (filling Russel Norman’s place via the list).

The photo shows Shaw and Davidson together in the front and middle. The party PR department doesn’t get to decide leaders, the members do, but this is suggestive of someone’s leadership preferences.

In contrast to the three parties in Government the National party website has been churning out the ‘News’ with often a couple of posts a day. They have more time available to do this in Opposition. I’m not sure that a photo of English with Angela Merkel is a positive given her problems trying to form a government.

National’s ‘Our Team’ page has been fully updated with their new MPs and their new responsibilities.

Remember ACT?

They have an odd home page – they get around the fact that they still only have one MP by showing David Seymour in duplicate.

Promoting his book. I guess they are a party of free enterprise.

The Maori Party website looks little changed from the election campaign. They have only three posts since the election, but have said they will try to come back in 2020. Much will depend on how well Labour do for Maori this term – if they don’t front up then the Maori Party could have a chance, but it will be difficult with no MPs.

The United Future website is still standing. The party isn’t. Their last post: UnitedFuture proud of it’s history, but all good things must end.

 

Ardern’s first month

A month can be a long time in politics – it seems a long time ago that Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister, it was a month ago, and a lot longer since the election two months ago.

Claire Trevett has a detailed look at how Ardern has been going – One month in: How are Labour and Jacinda Ardern tracking?

Ardern was sworn in as Prime Minister on October 26, a few days after NZ First leader Winston ­Peters stood on a podium in the Beehive Theatrette and announced to the nation he had chosen change — he had picked ­Labour.

In that month, her travels have taken her from meeting US ­President Donald Trump in ­Vietnam to hugging Lorde at the NZ Music Awards.

She has been praised for delivering hope and drawn dire predictions of doomsday for the economy.

There have been brickbats and bouquets — and there will be plenty more with another 72 days to ­deliver her First 100 Days Plan.

There will always be those politics who don’t like the party in power and are brick headed, and there will always be devoted fans who only see flowers. And there will be many in between who recognise successes and criticise stuff ups.

In her first (so far only) speech in Parliament, Ardern promised “a new beginning”. Labour would be “the people’s Government”.

But the first day of Parliament was not quite the day of glory ­Ardern hoped for.

The National Party forced ­Labour into a backdown on the ­issue of places on select committees by threatening to stand a candidate against Trevor Mallard for Speaker.

There has been little time for Labour to assert themselves in Parliament, and less time for Ardern to establish her presence and set her mark.

Soon after Parliament opened, Ardern jetted off to Vietnam on the Air Force Boeing for the Apec ­Summit.

There was also the last flurry of negotiations around the TPP to contend with — and the risk New Zealand would scupper it by re-litigating to suit Labour’s demands.

In the end, Ardern showed that for all the talk of vision and ideals she, too, had a pragmatic streak for matters important to New Zealand.

She announced Labour would sign up for the TransPacific Partnership.

It was the first big shift in Labour’s position she had negotiated — and she copped criticism at home from those groups ­vehemently opposed to the agreement.

But Ardern pleased some of those who had been most sceptical about her leadership — the farmers and ­business.

There seems to be quite a way to go before the CPTPP gets over the line, if it ever does, but if it fails that’s likely to be because of other countries.

The first significant issue Ardern faced was not child poverty, dirty rivers or homelessness but rather New Zealand’s relationship with Australia and the fate of 600 asylum ­seekers and refugees on Manus Island.

That’s been difficult for her, and unsuccessful.

While Trump was this week pardoning a turkey in the White House, Ardern had returned to New ­Zealand to find she, too, had to ­pardon a few turkeys.

They included Stuart Nash, for his over-exuberance on the ­subject of an extra 1800 police and charging GST on international ­purchases and Kelvin Davis, who had ­struggled as her fill-in.

Davis got an immediate pardon — she declared his shortcomings were not so great and simply the result of “judginess” by ­commentators.

Other ministers hit the ground running, forging on with the 100 days pledges. Notable examples were her predecessor Andrew ­Little and David Parker.

As could be expected, a very mixed start from the new Ministers. Some immediately stepped up, while others have struggled with their new responsibilities.

Ardern’s first month has not all been plain sailing.

She campaigned on a promise of hope and change, but it did not take long before she came up against the struggle of adjusting the ­expectations she had seeded during the campaign to suit reality.

There was the newly named Comprehensive and Progressive TransPacific Partnership (CP TPP), which Labour had opposed, and the promise to re-enter the Pike ­River Mine — downgraded to a re-entry only if a further safety ­assessment deemed it safe.

There was dilution of policies such as abolishing national ­standards and repealing the ­Hobbit law — which has now become amending the Hobbit law.

There also emerged the first tricky head-to-head between NZ First and the Greens, in their ­dispute over the Waka Jumping Bill.

Nor did Ardern manage to stick to her vow to be relentlessly ­positive.

She looked very tired at the end of her international trip. It was a very demanding beginning for her. The demands, and difficulties with being positive, will continue.

Commentators who dared ­criticise her and journalists who interviewed her too aggressively were roundly abused on Twitter.

That’s the nature of social media and politics, unfortunately. Some react to criticism, or often only their own over sensitive perception of criticism, with abuse of the messenger. Sometimes this is trying to deliberately divert from the message.

When it comes to those whose opinions count the most — the ­voters — there is no sign that Ardern is not enjoying a happy ­honeymoon.

Both fan reactions and the polls show that Ardern is a star attraction, both as a celebrity and as a politician.

A month is a long time for a new Prime Minister, but three years is a huge challenge.

Not mentioned by Trevett are a number of shifts in policy position as the reality of what can be done takes over from what can be glibly promised in a campaign. This could reflect a settling in period that once done diminishes in importance, or it could be the start of an accumulation of disappointments.

I guess Ardern generally gets a pass mark albeit with a few blemishes on her early record.

The next couple of months will be substantially distracted by Christmas and the holiday period.

However Ardern and her Government will need to keep busy so they hit the ground running a credible and coherent strategy in late January.

 

A billion or half more trees

National MP Simon Bridges has accused the Government of halving it’s tree planting plan. Yesterday a press release from Simon Bridges: So, half as many trees then?

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is already backtracking from his promise to plant a billion trees in 10 years, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“From his statements earlier today it appears he’s realised that the pledge of a billion new trees is entirely unachievable and now he’s attempting to back away from it,” Mr Bridges says.

“His problem is that the target is recorded unambiguously in both the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement and the Speech from the Throne on the new Government’s programme.

“Now he wants to count around 50 million trees that are already planted every year, about half of the billion he’s committed to over a decade. These are happening regardless of his slush fund or the kind of Government in power.

“So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive.

“He needs to immediately stop using his slogan of 1 billion trees to be planted because it’s completely untrue. He should also stand up in Parliament and correct the Speech.

“This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target. It’s all very underwhelming.

Included in the Labour-NZ first coalition agreement:

Coalition Priorities

In this parliamentary term, New Zealand First has a number of priorities to progress which Labour will support alongside its policy programme. These include the following goals:

Regional Economic Development and Primary Industries

  • $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including:
    • Planting 100 million trees per year in a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

That implies a Government Fund for a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

From the Speech from the Throne:

The New Zealand Forestry Service will be re-established and located in regional New Zealand. This government is committed to a new planting programme, planting 100 million trees a year to reach a billion more trees in ten years.

That says “a new planting programme”.

But news reports had made it clear the plan was to double existing tree planting numbers.

Newshub on 25 October: Revealed: Shane Jones Minister for 100 million trees, $1 billion regional fund

Shane Jones will be the Minister responsible for spending $1 billion a year on New Zealand’s regions.

Newshub has also learned that Jones will also be in charge of the new Forestry Service, which will plant 100 million trees a year – with the goal of planting a billion over 10 years.

It is understood that about 50 million trees are already planted in New Zealand each year, meaning the new Government’s planting will double that.

That clearly says doubling to 100 million trees a year, or to 1 billion trees in total.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told the AM Show on Wednesday the fund will help grow the regions.

“Labour went to the election with a $200 million fund. NZ First came to us and made the case strongly for greater regional investment, particularly around infrastructure. So this fund will include, for instance, a number of regional rail projects,” she said.

“It will include an extensive planting regime for forestry. Our intention is to double the amount of planting that goes on in forestry right now.”

A clear statement of intent to double the number of trees currently being planted.

Ardern responded to Bridges accusations yesterday – 1 billion-tree aim ‘always a joint goal’

But Ardern told reporters yesterday the Government was never going to plant 1 billion trees on its own.

“We’ve always been really clear. We see a role for the Forestry Service to work alongside those in the private sector to ensure we’re supporting the planting of those trees.”

She pointed to Air New Zealand’s announcement on Tuesday to work with the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries to fund tree-planting over up to 15,000ha in return for carbon benefits.

“Overall our goal is a billion trees being planted. It would be splitting hairs trying to decipher whether or not that [tree] was solely Government [or] solely private sector … this is a collaborative approach.”

Labour and NZ First may be guilty of not being absolutely clear about their intent on tree planting in their agreement and in the Speech from the Throne, but it seems clear from other reports that they intended to double plantings to 100 million a year.

I think to most people both half a billion and a billion trees is a lot, and they won’t care (if they notice) whether it is a doubling of planting or additional.

Bridges needs to be careful he doesn’t inherit the ‘barking at every passing car’ syndrome.

On this he looks a bit pedantic and guilty of petty nitpicking.

Government supported in latest RM poll

The November Roy Morgan poll suggests a shift in support towards Labour and Greens since the election, but NZ First has slipped.

National are still slightly ahead of Labour, but have dropped.

  • National 40.5% (election 44.45%, October 46%)
  • Labour 39.5% (election 36.89%, October 31%)
  • Greens 10% (election 6.27%, October 11%)
  • NZ First 5% (election 7.2%, October 6.5%)
  • ACT 0.5% (election 0.5%, October 0.5%)
  • TOP 2% (election 2.44%, October 2%)
  • Maori Party 1.5% (election 1.18%, 1.5%)
  • Other 1% (election 1.07%, October 1.5%)

Labour+Greens are 49.5%, and Labour+NZ First+Greens are 54.5%, the highest

This is early days for the new Government but indications are that there is general support for it.

The October poll was taken not long after the September election and during coalition negotiations, which may explain it’s swings, especially for Labour.

A poll at this stage doesn’t mean a lot but is of some interest as it indicates that the Labour led government seems to be generally well supported.

Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your
party vote?” This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by
telephone – both landline and mobile – with a NZ wide cross-section of 887 electors during
October 30 – November 12, 2017. Of all electors surveyed 2% (down 1.5%) didn’t name a party.

 

Summary: New PM Jacinda Ardern drives surge in New Zealand Government Confiden

Detail: Tableau PDF

Eagle wants rewrite of adoption law

Ex Wellington councillor has been elected to take over Annette King’s Rongotai electorate. He wants a rewrite of adoption laws to make it easier for adoptees to find their birth parents.

He talked about this in his maiden speech in Parliament.

In 1973, the late Norman Kirk and the then Labour Government introduced the domestic purposes benefit. But your dad was born in 1972—a year earlier—which meant that when my birth mother found out she was pregnant with a child she could not afford to care for, to a man who couldn’t care for her, she had to let me go.

And, sadly, there was no State support or sympathy for solo parents back then. My birth mother had already been judged for her actions, but she wanted more for me than she could give: a safe home, a warm bed, good clothes, and a full tummy—I think I got that last one.

But it wasn’t possible at the time, so the difficult decision was made to give me up for adoption—a decision that changed our lives forever. It would be more than 20 years before I’d see my birth parents again. My birth mother told me of her sadness and how she missed me and worried about how I was doing. At shopping malls, she would look at each little Māori boy and wonder if it were me.

But over 45 years later, it’s still nice to know that she wanted me and would have kept me if she could. But it’s even more rewarding to know that because of Kirk and a Labour Government thousands of mums and their babies got the support they needed to stay together. And that’s even if your dad wasn’t one of them.

I don’t like to think that my birth mother gave me up. It sounds as if she gave up on me; when what she did was give me a loving family, a happy childhood, the best shot at life a boy could ask for, and a place where your dad truly belonged.

I understand this more than ever, son, because when we adopted you, your dad realised how hard the decision for our birth mothers must have been, because to decide to let go of a child is the most selfless act any person can do.

Eagle also discussed his aims on The Hui (video): From adoption to MP: How Paul Eagle plans to rewrite the law

Eagle’s Labour website profile:

The son of a Methodist Minister and hospital worker, Paul is committed to serving others, particularly the people of Wellington’s eastern and southern suburbs, where he grew up in the 1980s.

From his parents’ involvement in the Labour Party, Paul learned the importance of helping others and getting involved in political action.

In his previous role as Deputy Mayor of Wellington, Paul led the Council’s Housing portfolio – the single biggest issue for Wellingtonians.

An Island Bay resident, Paul was educated at Evans Bay Intermediate School, St. Patrick’s College Wellington and has postgraduate qualifications from the Elam School of Fine Arts. He is married to Miriam and has one child, Tama.

You’ll also see Paul proudly out supporting the Hurricanes, Phoenix and Pulse during his spare time.

 

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”.

A problem with Kelvin Davis

There is no doubt that Jacinda Ardern stepped up into the role of Labour leader, and stepped up further in post-election negotiations, as new Prime Minister and generally in her role in international politics (Manus aside).

Not so Kelvin Davis. It seemed to be a good idea to appoint him deputy to Ardern, he had appeared to be a good prospect, he complimented Ardern and he strengthened Labour’s Maori mana.

But Davis always seemed uncomfortable in the role. Some initial swagger was swept aside after he made some poor comments, and he slipped into the background, probably by design of Labour’s campaign.

He has been forced into the foreground again over the last week as acting Prime Minister when both Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters were overseas. Davis was unimpressive fronting for the Government in Parliament this week. He stonewalled without conviction.

Jo Moir at Stuff talks tough: Labour has a problem – the trainwreck of acting prime minister Kelvin Davis

For the last week, Kelvin Davis has been acting prime minister and it’s been nothing short of a trainwreck.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy, Winston Peters, have been cutting deals and forging relationships on the international stage in Vietnam and the Philippines, Davis has been left back in New Zealand to handle the day-to-day business.

Before embarking on this week-long mission, Davis was pretty cool and calm about the whole thing and even described the role as a “figurehead” position.

In this column a week ago, I congratulated Davis for doing an excellent job of saying absolutely nothing, but nobody seriously thought that was a strategy Labour could keep up.

Roll on to Tuesday and Davis was back in the House facing Opposition Leader Bill English on statistical steroids as he did what he does best – stringing together sentences with enough jargon and numbers to make a Treasury report look like child’s play.

National worked out a long time ago that Davis was the weak link in the Labour leadership team and the party is in overdrive finding every way possible to expose that.

Every question Davis had thrown at him on Tuesday was answered first in muffled tones by ministers Phil Twyford, Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson. Davis then stood up and repeated the answers.

I hadn’t noticed that. Question 1 from Tuesday:

You can see it at times here, with Robertson prompting Davis on some answers and appearing to act as his minder.

The ministers didn’t even try to hide the fact they were doing it and Davis blatantly looked to them every time before rising to his feet.

It was like a seriously bizarre game of Chinese whispers that started at Twyford and ran along the front bench until the message was received by Davis.

That wasn’t noticeable on video but must have stood out from the press gallery.

Wednesday arrived. It was a new day; perhaps a new strategy? Not a chance.

There were only two political stories anyone was interested in that day – North Korea and the Government’s net debt target, economists having warned billions would need to be borrowed over the coming years.

As the media gathered on “the tiles”, where ministers are questioned on their way into the House, Davis strode across the bridge toward journalists on his own.

Davis got thrown to the pack and desperately tried to keep his head above water.

Asked what year Labour wanted to reduce net debt to 20 per cent of GDP by, Davis stumbled around before spluttering “over the economic cycle”.

Unconvinced, the reporter asked again, yes, but what year?

Red-faced and out of his depth, Davis conceded he had lost and switched to straight-up honesty, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that”.

This is a key policy of Labour’s and, yes, it’s hard to remember lots of numbers and years but Davis was presumably well prepped on this topic and still didn’t get across the line.

Was Davis prepped? Or is he just being left to flounder by Labour?

Things didn’t get much better in Question Time. The Opposition had not one but three questions lined up for Davis to put him under pressure in a number of portfolios.

But that’s not before he had made a clarification to the House, after saying the week before in answer to a question about the cost of additional police that “those costs have been finalised”.

Actually, “those costs have yet to be finalised”.

This isn’t just a problem with Davis. There seems to be a problem across Labour with different stories on a number of topics – there appears to be a lack of communication and knowledge on key policies.

In Question 1 on Wednesday Davis tried a different strategy – he gave all his answers in Maori, which mewant that many people listening would not know what he said, but again they were vague and ‘in due course’ answers. Nothing answers.

The problem Labour has is that Robertson is the obvious person to be acting prime minister and actually there’s no reason he can’t be.

Peters is barely ever going to fill that role because chances are if Jacinda Ardern’s out of the country, then, as foreign affairs minister, he’s likely to be too.

Labour needs Davis to remain the party’s deputy leader because his promotion to that role ahead of the election was a smart one and no doubt went a long way to helping it win all seven Māori seats.

A smart campaign strategy – once they worked out that Davis needed to be kept in the background. But not so smart it seems when it comes to governing.

But the party can’t sustain the cringeworthy chaos on display of late and it needs a new plan by the time Ardern and Peters jet out of the country again.

Ardern can appoint Robertson in the acting role and keep Davis as deputy leader. It’s messy, but not as messy as what was on display last week.

Failing that, the Government can choose who answers questions in the House on behalf of the prime minister.

If Ardern is away, then Robertson needs to be nominated as acting leader for the purposes of the House at least. It doesn’t solve the issue of press conferences but it gets halfway there.

Labour obviously has a problem with Davis, who is more than struggling.

They have wider problems with mixed messages over a number of policies, so overall their policy decisions and communication needs to improve.

Ardern and Peters are back in the country so the Davis problem can be forgotten for a while, but if Davis can’t step up into a leadership role then Labour need to seriously look at his position.

Robertson must be frustrated, he looked like he was squirming in Parliament each time Davis got up to speak.