Pike River families 'disappointed' with MP Nick Smith's opinion piece calling for end to recovery 'charade'

Source: 1News

A member of the Pike River families is disappointed in Nelson MP Nick Smith, after he wrote an opinion piece saying "we need to call time on this charade" and "the men are not going to be recovered". 

Twenty-nine men lost their lives after an explosion in the Pike River mine on the West Coast in November, 2010. The Government has committed to re-enter the mine to try and recover the remains of the men.

In an opinion piece for NZ Herald, Dr Smith wrote the parties that make up the current Government entered the last General Election and "exploited the families' disappointment, insisting the men's remains could be safely recovered".

"(Labour, NZ First and the Green Party) choose to politicise the difficult decision National made to accept the technical advice that the men could not be recovered."

"A comprehensive 800-page report in 2015 concluded recovery of the men could not be done within the new safety laws," Dr Smith said. 

Sonya Rockhouse of the Family Reference Group, that represent most of the families of the 29 men who lost their lives in the Pike River Mine after an explosion in November 2010, said she was disappointed at the opinion piece. 

"We've built a good relationship with (National's) Mark Mitchell over the last year and know he's on our side and backing the recovery along with his party.

"If Nick can't get over the past... maybe it's time he moved on from politics."

Mr Mitchell, National's Pike River Re-entry spokesperson, said Dr Smith was drawing on his time as Environment Minister.

"I've been clear on my position, which is the party's position, that in light of the decision to re-enter the drift having been made we will support the families and engage with the recovery agency in a positive way to be satisfied that a safety-first approach is being taken, and that more lives are not put at unnecessary risk.

"National is opposed to any attempt by the Government to exempt the Pike River Mine re-entry team from safety laws and regulations to allow the re-entry to continue. Dr Smith and I are in total agreement on this."

On July 30, the Pike River Recovery Agency started work to remove the remainder of the 30m barrier, airlock doors and de-watering infrastructure that sits between the 30m mark and 170m barrier.

On August 22, Pike River Re-Entry Minister Andrew Little in Question Time  was asked if any exemptions from the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 or regulations be sought.

Mr Little answered: "Yes, and the conditions on which an exemption can be given require conditions to be met, and the principal condition is that any standards applied in order to achieve an exemption have to be equal to, or better than, the standards provided for in the regulations."

"Any exemption sought by the Pike River Recovery Agency will be because their standards they are applying will be better than, or equal to, the standards provided for in the regulations."