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Pike recommendations to be implemented 'promptly'

Published: 4:17PM Wednesday December 12, 2012 Source: ONE News

The entire mining industry is to be subjected to a new regulatory framework in the wake of the Pike River tragedy.

Twenty nine miners died in the explosion two years ago.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry came up with at least 16 recommendations and today the Government gave each a specific deadline.

It also said it will introduce a regulatory framework for the entire mining sector, not just underground mining as recommended by the Royal Commission.  

"We've taken the view that there are some high hazard industries in New Zealand that need to be regulated strongly."

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, MP Steven Joyce and Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley will oversee the implementation of the response to the Commission's recommendations. 

"We are working to put into effect as soon as practically possible the 16 recommendations of the Royal Commission aimed at addressing systemic failures in the health and safety regulatory regime," Joyce says. 

"We owe it to the families of the victims of Pike River to ensure we follow through promptly on every recommendation the Royal Commission has made," he said.

Finlayson said different aspects of the report will take time to bring into effect, with a goal of having all recommendations in place by the end of 2013.

"I gave an undertaking in pretty blunt terms to the poor families at Greymouth that it would all be put in place both legislative and regulatory and all other types of reforms by the end of 2013 and that's what the Government's committed to," Finlayson told ONE News.

The Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety has been given responsibility for advising Government on several other key recommendations by the Commission, including the best structure and form of a new independent regulator for workplace health and safety.

"The next milestone will be our decision early next year on the form of the new independent regulator," Finlayson says.

"The Taskforce will advise the Government on other key Royal Commission recommendations by April 30 when it is scheduled to report back on New Zealand's entire workplace health and safety system."

The Government has appointed an Expert Reference Group on mining safety and regulation to provide advice and independent scrutiny to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in developing a more effective regulatory framework for all mining in New Zealand.

"The new regulatory framework will cover all mining in New Zealand," Finlayson says. A new framework will be consulted on mid-2013.

"The changes will also address the recommendations for worker participation in mining health and safety management, more detailed health and safety management responsibilities for company directors and statutory mine managers, management training and emergency management planning."

Former Pike River safety manager Neville Rockhouse is confident the Government will deliver on their promise. His son Ben died in the tragedy while his other son Daniel survived and made it out of the mine to safety.

"Their legacy has to be reforms across the board&that's really paramount to the families, that this thing cannot ever happen again and it's reinforced in legislation," he told ONE News.

"It's the first time they've looked like they're going to carry through with what they say they're going to do, and I guess that's what was required because what they've said they're going to do in the past has not materialised."

EPMU praises plan

EPMU assistant national secretary Ged O'Connell says the plan is good news for miners and their families.

"Mine safety is a matter of life and death for our members, so we are pleased to see the Government recognises the importance of implementing the Royal Commission's recommendations without reservation or delay."

O'Connell said the plan is comprehensive, and provides a "positive framework for getting the decisions right".

He said he would like to see unions and the community consulted on all recommendations.

"The decision to widen the scope of the recommendations to include opencast mining is sensible and shows the lessons of Pike River apply in other high hazard industries and indeed for health and safety in New Zealand generally.

"The makeup of the expert reference group on mining safety and regulation is also welcome, as it includes significant expertise from Queensland, which has world's best practice in mine safety."