Pike River: Whittall 'devastated by 'dodgy git' label

By Hayden Donnell

Former Pike River Coal General manager Doug White. Photo / Pool
Former Pike River Coal General manager Doug White. Photo / Pool

Former Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall is devastated at being called a "megalomaniac", "liar" and "dodgy git" by his former mine manager, his lawyer says.

Doug White, who oversaw the Pike River mine when it was hit by a deadly explosion, was emotional as he spoke yesterday about his dysfunctional relationship with Mr Whittall in a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

He said Mr Whittall was "still a dodgy git'' and accused him of doing "a number" on former chief executive Gordon Ward in a personal email three days before the underground explosion.

In an interview afterwards with police, Mr White also called him "overbearing, quite dictatorial, megalomaniac''.

Counsel for Mr Whittall Stacey Shortall today told the commission her client was "absolutely devastated" at Mr White's allegations.

She revealed another statement from Mr White's police interview, where he said Mr Whittall was the "nicest bloke you'll meet in the world" when you spoke to him one-to-one.

Mr Whittall "vehemently denies" trying to force Mr Ward out of his position as chief executive, she said.

That was backed by a statement from her other client, Pike River chairman John Dow, who said Mr Whittall had nothing to do with Mr Ward's departure from the company.

Mr White refused to back down from his statements under questioning.

He said Mr Whittall had lied by accusing him of causing a seven per cent drop in Pike River Coal's share price.

It was unusual that Mr Dow had strongly criticised Mr Ward in the days before his departure, Mr White said.

"I just found it a bit unusual a few days prior to Mr Ward's departure, Mr Dow was in my office telling me what a bad person Mr Ward was.

"To me it looked like someone had done a number on someone."

Ms Shortall is seeking permission to table other parts of Mr White's personal email, where he was critical of other people involved with Pike River.

She said tabling the email would give context to Mr White's accusations.

That was opposed by other counsel present. The commission is considering the application.

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