O'Connor feels 'somewhat guilty' over Pike River

Damien O'Connor

West Coast MP Damien O’Connor says if re-elected the Labour Party would make “major’ changes to the current mining legislation.

Speaking this weekend on ‘The Nation’, Mr O’Connor said he is currently looking at a new members’ bill to ensure corporate responsibility and liability.

“Where you have directors of a company who knowingly ignore health and safety issues, then they should be liable, they should be responsible and that we need to implement the Queensland and New South Wales mining regulations immediately.  Now I'm guessing the government should be working on that now.  I'm looking at private member's bill to do that.  Yes as incoming Labour government I'm sure that we will do everything to make major change to that 92 Act and to give better protection to miners be they need it.”

Mr O’Connor said he too could have done more to ensure tragedies like the Pike River Mine explosion did not happen.

“Well can I say that yeah I too feel somewhat guilty, maybe I should have marched in the street or done something to get across the point in a little more stronger fashion.  I think that the reality is in hindsight many of us believe we should have done more to highlight the dangers, that only a few experienced miners truly knew.  I'm not a coalminer I couldn’t make judgement on what was safe or what wasn't, we relied on experts and unfortunately as this report identifies the experts or so called experts in the Department of Labour didn’t have the skills to make the judgement, and that’s something that we have to change and move, and that’s what the families are looking for, is major change to prevent such a terrible tragedy happening in the future.”

However, he said the culture of deregulation by the then National Government is to blame.

“I think there's been a major culture change in the mining industry, and why I've pointed the finger at Solid Energy, they were part of the process of deregulation in 1992, we had a National government determined to deregulate anything they could get their hands on, they deregulated electricity, they deregulated housing, and mine safety.  What happened was that the companies were happy to accept that, they got rid of the experienced miners, they got younger guys in who were enthusiastic, they didn’t know the dangers and the lessons of history and in fact the company was happy to carry on with that lowering their costs, not having the oversight of mine safety that was necessary.”

“The culture in the Department of Labour said that people sitting on their backsides in Wellington knew better than the people at the coalface.  There had been a consistent under resourcing of people at the coalface, the Mines Inspectors, the Inspectorate that ran right through, and that the advice to ministers, both in the previous National government and our own, in my view was deficient, and they were determined to say that you could run a safety regime from Wellington, when in fact what we needed were people on the ground.  No eventually that message got through and we took action.  It did unfortunately you know take a couple of deaths to spark that, and yes we could have done better, but the fact is that the current minister, or the one that’s just resigned had warnings, direct warnings from that internal review.”

This article is tagged with the following keywords. Find out more about My Tags

Post Comment

5 Comments & Questions

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

Parsimonious comment from Damian O'Connor,
After 1992, Labour was in power from 1999 to 2008 and did absolutely nothing at all about mine safety,
Hell. even Andrew Little in his then capacity as EPMU leader, said or did nothing.
Trevor Mallard as Minister responsible did nothing, so for Labour now to start pointing fingers is hypocritical to say teh least.
Damian O"Connor - epic fail!

Reply
Share

Sam, it takes two seconds on the internet to find Andrew Little spoke up a number of times before Pike River about the need for better mine safety.

http://www.epmu.org.nz/mine-safety-lobbying/

Reply
Share

you are correct..the first one is 2006 and 2008 the next - there was calls for under Labour as well...this is long a tragic process..there is a nz herald article which also states that Andrew Little defended Pike etc - it is all at odds

Reply
Share

O'Connor and Labour forgot too quickly the adage : "People who live in glasshouses must not throw stones."

This is the problem with a party being too long in power, like that of Helen Clark. She was too busy doing grand social-engineering of NZ to care too much about minor details like mine and workers' safety.

Reply
Share

Why should O'Connor feel guilty? He wasn't even the West Coast MP at the time

Mr Rockhouse(the Safety Manager of Pike River) in yesterday's STS let us know that he was well aware of the safety issues but not only did he stay there but he also failed to discourage his sons to leave. Ultimately that ended in tragedy for him but nevertheless he was 'at the coalface' with that Company and did nothing

If people so close to the action failed to act how can you blame someone as far away as Damian O'Connor was?

Reply
Share

Post New comment or question

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

NZ Market Snapshot

Forex

Sym Price Change
USD 0.0000 0.0000 0.00%
AUD 0.0000 0.0000 0.00%
EUR 0.0000 0.0000 0.00%
GBP 0.0000 0.0000 0.00%
HKD 0.0000 0.0000 0.00%
JPY 0.0000 0.0000 0.00%

Commods

Commodity Price Change Time
Gold Index 0.0 0.000
Oil Brent 0.0 0.000
Oil Nymex 0.0 0.000
Silver Index 0.0 0.000

Indices

Symbol Open High Last %
NZX 50 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00%
NASDAQ 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00%
DAX 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00%
DJI 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00%
FTSE 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00%
HKSE 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00%
NI225 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00%