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

Pike director hints at compo help

Judge's suggestion company's leaders contribute to payout for mine-tragedy families gets cautious reception.

Stuart Nattrass.
Stuart Nattrass.

One of the Pike River Coal directors has indicated he may contribute to the $3.41 million in reparations a judge ordered the company to pay to families of the men who died in the mine three years ago.

But, despite the judge suggesting shareholders also contribute, the firm's largest secured shareholder says it is unlikely to help pay for the compensation.

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

Judge Jane Farish ordered Pike River to pay a total of $3.41 million 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 over nine charges.

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

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

Judge Farish blasted the directors and shareholders for not volunteering to pay any of the compensation - noting the directors had "significant insurance".

Mr Nattrass said it was the company that had been found at fault. He said it was "possible" some of the directors would contribute to the compensation.

Mr Nattrass said he had not given the idea "any real thought", but it was possible he would put his mind to it.

Mr Dow said he had thought about what the judge had to say. "But I'm not going to comment on that at the moment."

Mr Agarwalla is in India and said he could not comment on the judge's remarks until he had seen her ruling. The other directors could not be contacted.

NZ Oil and Gas chief executive Andrew Knight said he was baffled why Judge Farish had targeted his company to put up money for the families.

"I need to go through the process of reading the judgment and try to understand the judge's logic as to why she believed it was appropriate for a minority shareholder of a publicly listed company to be fronting up."

He said it was "unlikely" the company would put in more money.

The ruling

* $3.41 million to be paid by Pike River Coal to families of the men who died.

* $110,000 for the family of each victim.

* $760,000 fines for Pike River Coal over nine charges.


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