Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Directors weigh Pike River order

Stuart Nattrass.
Stuart Nattrass.

One of the Pike River Mine directors says he may consider contributing to the $3.41million reparation ordered to families of the men who died in the mine three years ago.

The directors at the time of the tragedy were John Dow, Stuart Nattrass, Raymond Meyer, Roy Radford, Arun Jagatramka, Dipak Agarwalla, Surendra Sinha and Sanjay Loyalka. None were charged.

Judge Jane Farish last week criticised the directors and the company's shareholders for not volunteering to pay compensation - noting the directors had "significant insurance".

Yesterday Nattrass said the company was found at fault - not the individual directors. He said it was "possible" some of the directors would contribute to the compensation and he would think about it. "It's been hard on everybody that's been involved in this business, not just those who have lost family."

However, the company's largest secured shareholder, NZ Oil and Gas, says chances of it funding the compensation are unlikely.

Pike River was sentenced in the Greymouth District Court on Friday for health and safety failings that led to the deaths of 29 miners in November 2010.

Judge Farish ordered Pike River Coal to pay a total of $3.41million in reparation - $110,000 for the family of each victim and survivors Russell Smith and Daniel Rockhouse. She also fined the company a total of $760,000 on nine charges.

Pike River Coal is in receivership and indicated during sentencing it had only enough money to pay $5000 to each family.

Agarwalla is in India and said he could not comment until he had seen the court ruling. He would not say if he would consider contributing to the compensation.

Dow said he wanted more information on the judge's findings. "I haven't seen the specifics of what she said. I've only seen what's been reported.

"I don't understand what the justification for her making those comments was."

NZ Oil and Gas chief executive Andrew Knight said he was baffled his company had been targeted by Judge Farish to put up money for the families. The company was the largest secured shareholder but it owned only 24.9 per cent of the shares, he said.

Knight said Judge Farish appeared to be unaware NZ Oil and Gas gave Pike River $25million after the explosion to keep the company running and pay staff.

"All the employees were paid salaries they were owed, all the employees were paid additional payments."

Money also went to creditors and the Families' Trust fund, Knight said.

He said a final decision hadn't been made whether to contribute to the reparations but it was "unlikely" the company would opt to put in more money now.

- APNZ

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