Pike River mine settlement is reached – but socialists accuse the govt of a cover-up to protect the culpable capitalists

More money to help Covid-affected business, more money for humanitarian work in Afghanistan, more money to protect kauri …

Ministers have been busy dishing it out over the past two days.

But there’s no hint of a “$” sign or any mention of the word “payment” in a joint statement released today in the names of Bernard Monk, Andrew Little, Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry, and the Attorney General of New Zealand.

A note accompanying the statement says:

“The Parties have agreed on terms to fully and finally settle the proceeding and will jointly issue the below statement.”

At Point of Order, our monitors are programmed to try to winkle out the cost to taxpayers, when the government talks of a full and final settlement.

But money was not mentioned in the statement on this settlement, which is rooted in litigation stemming from the deaths of 29 men in the Pike River mine on 19 November 2010.

We wait with interest to see how the settlement is regarded by the World Socialist Web Site, which last month reported this statement from the Socialist Equality Group (New Zealand):

This statement kicked off:

“New Zealand’s Labour Party-led government has ordered work to start on a final seal at the entrance to the Pike River coal mine. Its aim is to permanently entomb the 29 bodies of the workers who died in a series of underground explosions in November 2010, and to prevent the forensic examination of crucial evidence, including an underground fan, that could establish the precise cause of the disaster.”

And:

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government is continuing a decade-long cover-up. Successive governments, state regulators and the entire judicial system have ensured that no one has been prosecuted, despite a mass of evidence that the mine was a death trap, with grossly inadequate methane gas monitoring and ventilation, no emergency exit and other flagrant safety violations. Pike River Coal’s senior managers and directors have escaped any accountability and many have left the country.

“As well as burying the evidence in the mine, the government refuses to lift a 100-year embargo on thousands of pieces of submissions and other evidence given to the 2012 royal commission of inquiry, which would certainly strengthen the case for prosecutions.”

The joint statement released today can be found among items posted on the …

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Joint statement of Mr Bernard Monk; Hon Andrew Little, Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry, and the Attorney General of New Zealand

At the heart of this litigation are the lives of the 29 men tragically lost at the Pike River mine on 19 November 2010 and to whom we pay our respects.

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In their statement on the Pike River settlement, the parties recall how events led in February 2020 to the Minister advising the Family Reference Group that

“…given the investment of time and money required to complete re-entry, recovery and examination of the drift, he did not intend to bring a proposal to Cabinet to move beyond the drift and try to explore the mine workings.  The Minister communicated this decision to Cabinet in March 2020, while at the same time securing further funding to complete the drift recovery. 

“Although it had been foreshadowed with the Families Reference Group, the Minister accepts that his decision not to explore the feasibility of re-entering the mine workings should have been communicated to all Pike River Family members before it was presented to Cabinet.  The Minister accepts this caused hurt to several family members as a result of this.”

The families and the Government say they have stayed faithful to their commitment to “Stand with Pike” and the Government has kept its commitment to the re-entry, recovery and forensic examination of the Pike River Mine drift in an effort to find out as much as possible about what happened at Pike River and why, to promote accountability for what happened, to inform, and to help prevent future tragedies.

“The Minister acknowledges and respects that all of the Pike River families remain committed to seeking justice and to ensuring that what happened at Pike River never happens again.  Both the Minister and the families support the ongoing criminal investigation the Police is carrying out into the tragedy.”

The authors of the statement on the World Socialist Web Site accuse the government of breaking repeated promises since its 2017 election campaign to work “in partnership” with the victims’ families and of ignoring the majority of the families, international mining experts, and thousands of supporters, who oppose the abandonment of the manned underground investigation.

“Contrary to the government’s claims, its decisions have nothing to do with safety or the cost involved. According to mining experts, the mine workings can be safely entered for $8 million, on top of about $50 million spent so far by PRRA. Divided by 29 victims, this sum is less than half the average cost of a murder investigation and trial.

“A political decision has been made to protect Pike River Coal’s management, as well as the state regulatory agencies and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (now called E tū), which allowed the mine to operate despite knowing about the dangers to workers.”

The statement mentions the families’ application for a judicial review of the legality of the government’s decision.

It describes the decade-long fight for truth as evidence the families and their supporters

“… are in a political fight against the entire capitalist political establishment, the judicial system, and the union bureaucracy.”

Workers in New Zealand and internationally are urged to intervene to stop the Ardern government from sealing the mine and readers of the statement are asked to share the statement.

This post will help in the sharing.

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