Pike River 10 Year Anniversary Commemorative Service
Tēnei te mihi ki a tātau katoa e huihui nei i tēnei rā
Ki a koutou ngā whānau o te hunga kua riro i kōnei – he mihi aroha ki a koutou
Ki te hapori whānui – tēnā koutou
Ki ngā tāngata whenua – tēnā koutou
Ki ngā mate, e kore koutou e warewaretia
Haere, haere, moe mai rā
My warmest greetings to everyone here today
My greetings to those who are joining us from and the country and around the world on the live stream.
Greetings especially to those who are on the Coast at the portal at Pike River, to you, your loved ones, your family and your friends.
Greetings to you all.
10 years ago today 31 men went to work at the Pike River Mine.
29 of those men never came home.
There is nothing relative about grief, sudden loss is devastating. But 10 years ago New Zealand saw a disaster and the grief that followed that was so gut wrenching, and so raw, it was almost unimaginable.
That loss alone would have been too much for most to bear. But for the families of the 29, it was only the beginning.
You were left to pick up the pieces. To raise children. To fill a void.
But more than that, you were left to fight for, and then carry the burden of knowledge, that what happened at Pike River should not have happened.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy found that in the drive towards coal production the directors and executive managers paid insufficient attention to health and safety and exposed the workers to unacceptable risks.
It found the Board of Directors did not ensure that health and safety was being properly managed and the Executive Managers did not properly assess the health and safety risks the workers were facing.
It found that the mining should have stopped.
Today I want to acknowledge your men. Sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, uncles. I want to acknowledge who they were, and the lives they lived. But I also want to acknowledge you, the Pike River Families.
We are here because of your determined efforts to ensure that everything that could be done in honour of your men would be done.
You are the ones who said never again.
There have been so many, who have worked so hard for so long, but I do want to dwell on the Stand With Pike Families reference group:
- Anna Osborne
- Sonya Rockhouse
- Rowdy Durbridge
You have never given up your quest for justice, and in part that is down to who you are as people. Tough, kind, stubborn. And honest. A few weeks ago Sonya even messaged me after seeing me on the news to tell me to eat a pie.
Thank you. You started as Pike family representatives – I now consider you friends.
I also want to take a moment to remember Simon Meikle, who was untiring in giving the Pike families legal advice, and who sadly passed away earlier this month after a battle with cancer.
And of course no anniversary of Pike River would be complete without acknowledgment of Helen Kelly and the role she played in holding the company and its leadership to account.
Helen passed away before I became leader of the Labour Party, but I know she would have been quick to ensure that we signed up to the Pike River Political Commitment. And we did. It’s a pledge that Andrew Little has worked tirelessly to fulfil.
It was a simple pledge - to do all we could to safely recover the Pike River Mine drift and collect evidence, in the hope that there might never be another Pike River disaster again.
In our first 100 days we established the Pike River Recovery Agency.
The Agency’s mission is clear:
- To safely re-enter and recover the Pike River Mine drift;
- To give the Pike River families closure;
- To promote accountability for the tragedy and to help prevent future mining tragedies.
On 15 September this year, in advance of today’s anniversary, Agency staff reached the Pit Bottom in Stone area which is critical for forensic examination.
10 years later we are very close to fulfilling the commitment to you.
But our obligation to you as families does not just exist at Pike River. It exists in every workplace across the country. I know that is one of the reasons we were asked to be here, in Wellington today. To remind us that the memory of your men, and your decade of efforts, must be carried in all we do to prevent further tragedy.
For the past decade you have held Governments both blue and red to account.
You have brought about legislative change already, you have reminded us there is more to do.
But now is the time for us, all of us, to take up that mantle too. You have carried too much, walked too far, pushed so hard. And you have done it for 10 years. For the next 10 years, let us be the ones to carry that burden.
But for today, New Zealand stands with you, embraces you, wishes you rest, and finally, wishes you peace.