Time to let Pike River victims rest

November 7, 2014

It’s been nearly four years since the Pike River mine disaster.

Solid Energy’s decision to not re-enter the mine will have disappointed some family members, but the company could not risk more lives.

The father of one of the Pike River Mine explosion victims says Solid Energy’s decision to stay out of the ruined mine will finally let his family move on.

Solid Energy board chairwoman Pip Dunphy said today “potentially fatal risk factors” made the mine too dangerous to re-enter.

Geraldine couple Rod and Christine Holling lost their 41-year-old son, Richard, as a result of an explosion at the West Coast mine on November 19, 2010. The Hollings have expressed their wish for Richard’s remains to be left untouched in the mine, saying that knowing where his remains were allowed them “closure”.

Other families of miners killed in the mine issued a joint statement today expressing disappointment with the state-owned mining company’s decision not to recover the miners’ remains, but Rod Holling said the announcement was “good news”.

“Our biggest fear is that someone else will get killed [re-entering the mine] and who will be responsible?” 

Holling was sceptical of former UK mining inspector Bob Stevenson’s claims the mine could be safely entered. He also believed mining companies would learn lessons about health, safety and mine construction from the disaster. . .

Learning and acting on the lessons could save other lives, and not just in mining. Rebecca Macfie’s book on the disaster has lessons for every business.

Families of the Pike River Mine victims met this morning with mine owner Solid Energy and Prime Minister John Key, only to be told the plan to re-enter the mine tunnel would not go ahead.

Their faces were strained and tears were visible after leaving the meeting, even though they had gone in almost certain the news would be bad.

Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine, said he would continue to investigate “to a certain degree” but acknowledged the fight might be over.

“I’ve got to start asking myself, do I want to go through another three or four years of agony.” . . .

I hope the answer to that question is no.

Prime Minister John Key has said the taxpayer would fund a civil case against parties involved in the disaster it Crown Law thinks it could succeed.

That would help the families and friends who are, justifiably, angry that no-one has been charged over the actions which led to the disaster.

Whether or not that happens, the decision not to re-enter the mine means it is time to let the 29 victims rest where they died, difficult as that might be for those who loved them.


Hubbards to face charges – UPDATED

June 20, 2011

“What would you have said if this had happened under a Labour government?” my farmer asked when news broke that Allan and Jean Hubbard were being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

I would have ranted and I would have been wrong. This is a matter for the law not politics.

There is no doubt the Hubbards did a lot of good for their community and the wider economy but there are very serious questions about whose money they used to do it, albeit for no personal financial gain.

In Counting the Cost Rebecca Macfie wrote:

If the Hubbards are indeed found to have committed fraud, their famously frugal lifestyle and commitment to charity – Hubbard estimates he has given away $200 million over the years – suggest they have not profited personally. But that’s irrelevant to the SFO: “Personal gain is not necessarily a requirement of fraud or theft,” says Feeley. “If I take $100 from you and say I am going to put it in the bank, whether I give it to the IHC or bet it at the race track, either way that would be a fraudulent act.”

A law unto himself, another Listener story by Macfie, provides a good background to the saga and if you enter Hubbard as a search term in the NBR the headlines tell a very sorry story.

Now the NBR reports D-Day for Hubbards?:

The Financial Markets Authority and the Serious Fraud Office were today set to lay charges in relation to a finance company, with speculation focused on Allan Hubbard’s Aorangi Securities and Hubbard Management Funds.

NBR was aware of last minute discussions between Mr Hubbard’s lawyer Mike Heron and the SFO over how the decision would be announced. A press release was due to be sent out by the regulators today.

It is a year and a day since the news first broke that the SFO was investigating the Hubbards.

It will have been a hard year for them – and for the people who trusted them with their money who will be lucky to get much, if any of it back among whom are the taxpayers who guaranteed deposits.

UPDATE: NBR reports: Hubbard to face 50 charges.


Key tops Listener power list

December 1, 2009

It’s no surprise that Prime Minister John Key tops the Listener’s top 10 in its 2009 Power List.

The panel says he is:

being identified by leadership scholars as pioneering an entirely new style of political leadership in this country. Sceptics may cite his pragmatism as evidence of overt risk-aversion, but so far his reasonable, moderate demeanour and light-handed management has worked magic for the Government’s standing. He has been the polar opposite of Helen Clark, resisting both the micromanagement of others’ portfolios and playing favourites in the caucus. His cheerful tolerance of coalition partners’ ructions – “The bulk of people who come into politics have type-A personalities!” – has saved National from being embroiled in their crises.

Bill English is second followed by Alan Bollard, Rodney Hide, Steven Joyce and Rob Fyfe.

Then comes Michael Stiassny, the country’s senior receiver. The introduction to the list explains:

Perhaps the most telling detail about this year’s Power List . . .  is that a receiver (Micahel Stiassny) comes in at No 7. Yes, it has been a tough year; a year when debt became a dirty word, when old power bases were weakened by the recession. . .

Tariana Turia is ninth then John Whitehead and Peter Jackson. The top 10 has an 11th place – it’s filled by Phil Goff.

Then there’s those who have been delisted:

Craig Norgate who was 4th in the Business and economy section last year; Andrew West who was 3rd in agriculture  and Pat Snedden who was 4th in health and medicine.

The panel that selected the 2009 almanac of influence was chaired by Listener senior write Rebecca Macfie. Members were Lynn Freeman who hosts Radio NZ’s arts programme; Karl Du Fresne, Chris Wikaira, director of PR firm Busby Ramshaw Grice; Jane Clifton; Jacqueline Rowarth, Director of Agriculture at Massey; Bernard Hickey, Alan Isaac who chairs NZ Cricket, is a director of Wakefield Health, trsutee of NZ COmmunity Trust, chair of McGrathNicol & Co and advisor to Opus International; and Stephen Franks.

The full list and commentary won’t be online until Boxing Day. I subscribe to the magazine and if I didn’t I’d fork out the $3.90 for this issue.


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