Ex-Pike boss breaks silence for first time

By Paul Harper

Former Pike River coal chief executive Gordon Ward. Photo / Greymouth Star
Former Pike River coal chief executive Gordon Ward. Photo / Greymouth Star

The former chief executive of the Pike River Mine, Gordon Ward, has broken his silence on the disaster, but still hasn't explained why he would not appear at the Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Ward had been the involved with the mine for 12 years, and was CEO of the West Coast mine up until six weeks before the November 19 2010 blast, which killed 29 men.

Despite his long association with Pike River, Ward refused to return to New Zealand from Australia to speak at the Royal Commission of Inquiry last year.

Ward was tracked to his Gold Coast home by TVNZ's Sunday programme, which screened last night.

Although it was the first time Ward had spoken publicly on the disaster, he refused to explain his refusal to assist the Royal Commission.

"First thing is I've cooperated fully with the Department of Labour and the police in all their enquiries that they've done to date, I've been interviewed by them and they have not pressed any charges against me," he told Sunday.

"Second thing I would like to say is that, [I'd like to] express my condolences to the families ... all the people affected by the disaster.

"The last thing I'd like to say is there is a court hearing that is about to kick off, that is going to be a very substantive review of all of the issues at the Royal Commission has covered, to an extent, and the entire circumstances leading up to the disaster will no doubt be explored," he said, referring to the charges brought against his successor Peter Whittall, Pike River Coal and VLI Drilling by the Department of Labour.

"I am not prepared to talk about the Royal Commission, as I've said I cooperated fully with police and the Department of Labour."
He also refused to answer questions about whether safety issues had been addressed at the mine under his watch.

"I think it is an awful tragedy, and no one has been unaffected by it who has been involved with the company. It has had a tremendous toll on everybody.

"Words can't express the deepest sympathies I have for the families."

Chairman John Dow told the Royal Commission of Inquiry Ward left the company after a falling out with his board over performance problems.

He described the mine as Ward's "baby", however said Ward had a baffling tendency to estimate production at the "optimistic" end and was guilty of over-promising and under delivering to investors.

- Herald Online staff

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