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Department found wanting on Pike River

Key issued a formal apology after the Royal Commission into the tragedy found that the New Zealand Government regulator of health and safety, formerly the Department of Labour, was found wanting in its mining inspectorate role. At the time of the disaster, the mining inspectorate consisted of only two inspectors for the whole of New Zealand, with little training or systems support.

“In the end, it’s as simple as this,” Key said at his post-Cabinet press conference after the release of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the disaster.

“The company completely and utterly failed to protect their workers. And as a result of that, they were put in undue risk and an explosion took place that killed people.”

Key also conceded that if the department had adopted world’s best practice and kept up with what was happening in other mining environments, there would have been different procedures.

“On behalf of the Government, I apologise to the families, friends and loved ones of the deceased men for the role this lack of regulatory effectiveness played in the tragedy,” he said.

The Royal Commission slammed both the company and the health and safety regulator of the time, the Department of Labour, saying the disaster was preventable.

“There were numerous warnings of a potential catastrophe at Pike River,” the report said. In the 48 days before the explosion, there were 21 reports of methane levels reaching explosive volumes and 27 reports of lesser, but potentially dangerous volumes.

The lawyer representing the families of the Pike River victims, Nicholas Davidson QC, said the Royal Commission gives an “unrelenting picture of failure at virtually every level”.

He said the NZ Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and the NZ Attorney-General Chris Finlayson had given the families a commitment that the NZ Government would move “very, very fast” on the Commission?s 16 recommendations. These include the formation of a new Crown agent focusing solely on health and safety and that the new regulator should supervise the granting of mining qualifications to mining managers and workers, including working with Australian counterparts towards developing a joint accreditation process.

Source: The New Zealand Herald

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