Apology for Pike River families, manslaughter charge considered
Tuesday 6 Nov 2012 11:49 a.m.
By 3 News online staff
The former Department of Labour has apologised to the families of Pike River miners, while the Attorney General is considering introducing a charge of corporate manslaughter.
In the wake of the royal commission report into the tragedy which killed 29 men, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and was criticised for failing to monitor safety standards at the mine. At this stage none of its staff are paying for its failings.
The department, now part of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment was found to have failed to monitor the Pike River mine to ensure it was meeting safety standards.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment chief executive David Smol apologised to the families and friends of the victims.
"The health and safety regulation of underground mining was not good enough," he told reporters in Wellington today.
"The system was not effective, we accept that. We are working hard to put it right."
The ministry said many of those who had monitoring authority of the mine have already left, and an employment review is underway to see if others are accountable.
Mr Smol said system failures went back to 1992 regulation changes and it was not a simple matter of saying one person was responsible.
"The changes in the way we regulated that came in in the early 90s did reflect a view of the world that placed greater emphasis on employers discharging their responsibilities as they should."
Kate Wilkinson, who quit yesterday as the Minister of Labour in the wake of the commission's findings, said today she felt her resignation was the noble thing to do.
“At the end of the day 29 men died under my watch.”
But three former directors at Pike River Coal company have dismissed accusations they put production at the mine ahead of safety.
In a statement released through a lawyer, John Dow, Ray Meyer and Stuart Nattrass says the company set out to create a safe, world-class coal mine.
They say they never intended it to be operated in an unsafe manner.
Now the Attorney General is looking at introducing a charge of corporate manslaughter in the wake of the report, which would require a law change to go ahead.
Prime Minister John Key says it's being looked at, but wouldn't be much
“The reality of corporate manslaughter in the case of Pike River is that it wouldn’t do a hell of a lot because they are usually financial remedies and this is a company in receivership.”
Mr Key says it could be used in other similar cases, but more information is needed yet.
3 News / RadioLIVE / NZN