Call for Minister to resign over mine safety

There have been calls for the Minister of Labour to resign after the Pike River inquiry revealed she did not implement mine safety recommendations in a 2008 review. Photo / Iain McGregor
There have been calls for the Minister of Labour to resign after the Pike River inquiry revealed she did not implement mine safety recommendations in a 2008 review. Photo / Iain McGregor

Opposition parties are calling for Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson to resign after the Pike River inquiry was told she did not implement mine safety recommendations in a 2008 review.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the disaster, in which 29 men were killed in explosions at the West Coast mine, was told yesterday that recommendations were made in an October 2009 briefing paper to improve safety in small mines, but not all had been adopted.

A spokesman for Ms Wilkinson today said the recommendations had no bearing on operations at Pike River, a large operation, as they covered small mines, with 15 or fewer miners.

"With regard to the recommendations themselves, the minister adopted all of them bar one - instead opting for more work on technical guidance to assist the two small underground mines we have,'' he said.

An Engineering and Printing Manufacturing Union proposal to introduce check inspectors was not picked up by the review, although Ms Wilkinson had been aware of it.

Green MP Kevin Hague today said Ms Wilkinson's failure to implement all the recommendations compromised her credibility.

"Evidence before the Royal Commission now shows that the current minister quashed suggested improvements to the health and safety of those in the underground mining industry,'' he said.

"The Government should implement the safety recommendations from the 2008 Department of Labour Discussion Paper now.

"If Ms Wilkinson is an impediment to improving mine safety, then surely she should step aside.''

Labour spokeswoman for labour issues Darien Fenton also called for Ms Wilkinson's resignation.

"The minister needs to admit that she made a mistake when she ignored recommendations to introduce improvements in small mine safety in October 2009, including a system of mine check inspectors,'' Ms Fenton said.

"Her answers to date give no confidence that she recognises the gravity of her decision.''

Ms Fenton said the current system was not working and the Government needed to act to prevent further tragedies like that at Pike River.

"The minister needs to prioritise the safety of miners and get her department into gear to follow through on her recommendations.''

- NZPA

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