Health and safety

Left to right, E tū’s Justin Wallace and Don Pryde with Jan Logie, Andrew Little and Eugenie Sage at the annual Pike River commemoration

Hope at last for Pike River families

Pike River families and supporters have marked the 7th anniversary of the Pike River mine disaster, buoyed by a Government agreement to a safe, manned re-entry of the mine drift.

At this year’s commemoration of the disaster, in a symbolic gesture, the Minister for Pike River Re-entry, Andrew Little, handed the families the keys to the locks of the gates blocking access to the mine.

The Government’s commitment is the culmination of the families’ campaign for re-entry of the drift to allow the remains of their loved ones to be retrieved as well as any evidence of what caused the disaster.

The Convenor of E tū’s Energy and Mining Industry Council, Justin Wallace, who attended the event says the mood was emotional but positive.

“This Government is really keen on having a look at a really safe and effective way of gaining re-entry, making sure the families are involved in that process, giving them information and keeping them in the loop and trying to get some answers, as well as closure,” says Justin.

“They all agree Andrew’s an upfront guy and he’s taken it as a personal challenge to make sure this is done properly.”

In that same week, the Supreme Court ruled the then Department of Labour’s decision (now MBIE) not to prosecute former Pike River boss, Peter Whittall, in exchange for more than $3 million in payments to the Pike River families was unlawful. This has established a precedent that justice cannot be bought, which Worksafe says will help strengthen workplace health and safety.

Justin says in the aftermath of the disaster, miners are now more vigilant about safety and determined to prevent another disaster.

Call backed for national Erebus memorial

E tū is backing calls for a national memorial to New Zealand’s biggest aviation disaster.

In 1979, an Air New Zealand scenic flight over Antarctica crashed into Mt Erebus killing all 257 passengers including 20 crew.

The Erebus families want a memorial with the names of all who perished, in time for the 40th anniversary of the tragedy in 2019.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is also strongly in favour.

“A national memorial would be a place where the families and the public could reflect on the tragedy,” says E tū’s Head of Aviation, Anita Rosentreter.

“It would serve as a powerful reminder that safety in the aviation industry is paramount,” she says.

Wreaths at the Auckland Airport Erebus crew memorial