Fast action expected on mine safety recommendations

By Kate Shuttleworth

Flames flared up a shaft above the pit after the miners were trapped. The tragedy left family and friends shattered. Photo / NZPA
Flames flared up a shaft above the pit after the miners were trapped. The tragedy left family and friends shattered. Photo / NZPA

The Government says it will move as quickly as possible to implement all 16 mine safety recommendations made by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy at Pike River Coal Mine.

The Government's plan to implement the recommendations was released today.

Cabinet have agreed Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, acting Labour Minister Christopher Finlayson and Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley will oversee the implementation of the Government's response to the Commission's recommendations.

Mr Joyce said the Government would put into effect the 16 recommendations of the Commission, aimed at addressing systemic failures in the health and safety regulatory regime, as soon as possible.

"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," said Mr Joyce.

The implementation plan details the Government's actions to-date on carrying out each of the 16 recommendations.

Mr Finlayson said the implementation plan showed the Government were seriously taking action to meet the goal of having all recommendations in place by the end of next year.

An independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety has been given responsibility for advising the 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.

Mr Finlayson said Government will decide early next year what form the new independent regulator would take. He said the taskforce would advise the Government on other key recommendations by the end of April next year, 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. A new framework will be consulted on mid-2013.

The new regulatory framework will cover all mining in New Zealand - not just underground mining as recommended by the Royal Commission, said Mr Finlayson.

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.

EPMU assistant national secretary Ged O'Connell welcomed the implementation plan, saying it was 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 Commissions' recommendations without a reservation or delay."

- APNZ

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