Mark Sainsbury: The Pike River video is a game changer

OPINION: After six years of constant police inquiries and a Royal Commission into the Pike River Mine disaster, we have been fed the constant mantra that it's too dangerous to go into the mine drift.

Then last night Newshub released footage that put the families' demands that a group be allowed into that drift into a totally new light.

This is a game changer. Because now we know that people appeared to enter that drift three months after the final explosion.

Living, breathing human beings, down there with the assistance of artificial air. From watching the video it's fair to say that two people in mines rescue overalls were physically in that drift sorting out a robot that was steaming and smoking.

Steaming and smoking in an area we were assured was lethal that could blow, yet there they were trying to fix their robot.

The cops say the robot was from Western Australia and was operated by remote control by staff at the entrance to the drift, and no-one was allowed to enter the drift as part of that operation. So what action did the cops take when they discovered people had broken that rule?

The video makes you wonder what else is to come - the families say there is more.

There are important questions too: Who knew this existed? The police and the Government did, but say they didn't view it.

Yet they maintain that it's too dangerous and say that when they tell us that the condition in that drift supports their contention, they are telling us the truth.

Or the truth as they know it.

Bill English, I don't care whether you have seen the video or not. You and your Government knew people had been inside that drift. Did it not strike you that that was relevant? Did it not strike police that the Royal Commission should have been aware of this?

The police response to the families' request for more video is classic bureaucracy and butt-covering. They say they're working through their Official Information Act obligations - what about their obligations to the families of those 29 men who died in that mine?

The police say the video had no evidential value - are they more interested in how they can continue to keep this under wraps? Because that's what they've done so far.

What this video has done is thrown the issue right back in the Government's face and discredited the role of the police.

When Bill English took power he should have showed some leadership and cauterised the issue, if not for the morality of it all then for the political expediency.

It would cut off Winston Peters, who has promised to make getting back into the mine an election issue. This latest development is a political gift from his perspective.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Bill English needs to give those families some satisfaction. If he wants to find a reason or an opinion to get back in he can find it - but he needs to grow a pair.

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.

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