OPINION:


I note Bernie Monk wants some sort of justice. One of his great hopes out of the Pike River Mine re-entry plan is that charges are laid.

And in that is the trouble of Pike, and my overarching feeling that no matter what is done, no matter what it costs, no matter what energy is exerted, or risks taken, there are those who will never be truly satisfied.

There are those who have hung their hats on a specific outcome that will never come to pass. Yes, the police are involved, as they have to be. But we have seen these sorts of scenarios before: namely the Christchurch earthquake, the CTV building collapse and the Royal Commission.

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When you listen to what goes on in a Royal Commission, their great advantage is they are exhaustive. Everyone is called, all the evidence is heard, all the questions are asked, and in general you experience the simple reality that calamity is rarely simple.

Pike River was not simple. No one person will face charges, because it was no one persons' fault.

They all want to hang Peter Whittall, the former CEO. Not because he necessarily did anything more or less than anyone else, but because he's an an easy target.

But that is not how justice works. Justice is a multi-faceted, highly complex set of events. It doesn't isolate an individual for group responsibility, and have them take the bullet. You need evidence, and not only do you need evidence, you need evidence that will pass muster.

Flames leap from the ventilation shaft at the Pike River Mine on November 29, 2010. Photo: Mark Mitchell
Flames leap from the ventilation shaft at the Pike River Mine on November 29, 2010. Photo: Mark Mitchell

And, as with the CTV building, by the time the Royal Commission has done its work, you came to the inescapable conclusion that there was plenty of fault, but not enough to pin it on one person.

Why, for example, wasn't the council charged given they didn't clear the building? Surely, in top-down justice that's where you start? What about the designer? If not the designer, the builder? And so it goes.

So what the Bernie Monks are expecting is not just re-entry, not just evidence after all these years and in that sort of environment to be found, but for that evidence to point directly and specifically back to a single individual. It simply isn't going to happen.

And if it isn't, where does that leave those who expect it, want it, and presumably are going to feel let down unless it does?

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And when they feel let down, does that leave them in the same place they have been up until now? Frustrated, without closure, and still with more questions than answers? And if that's the case, was all this worth it?