Speech on launch of Pike River Recovery Agency

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

Good morning, thank you for your warm, West Coast welcome.

First of all I want to acknowledge the families of the 29 men who left for work that day in November, who didn’t come home.

Today is for you.

Your determination and commitment to seeking justice is why we are here today.

Every working New Zealander has the right to return home safely at the end of the day.

On 19 November 2010, 29 of your loved ones were denied that right. The worst of it was that it was avoidable.

Since that day you have been denied closure, denied knowing with certainty what happened, denied a voice.

Today that changes.

Today we launch Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau mā Iwa—Pike River Recovery Agency as a new standalone agency of the state.

My commitment to you was to do everything within the Government's power to attempt a re-entry. Establishing this agency - one of the priorities of our first 100 days in government – is the first step towards that.

Today I make another commitment to you, the families.

As we move forward, both this Government and the new agency will continue to work closely with you. We will make sure that you have a clear voice, and are respected and included at every important step.

And, here on the Coast, I make a commitment to you and to all New Zealanders. We will be transparent about the progress we make - and the challenges we will face in getting there.

Anna, Sonya, Bernie who have fronted the cameras and the microphones time and time again. And all the other families too. You who told your stories, and wrote to MPs, and stood together at the gates - and I understand you operate one formidable phone tree.

This is your agency in your town. Thank you for giving it your blessing, and hope.

I want to acknowledge the warm welcome and blessing from mana whenua, Ngāti Waewae. Ngāti Waewae gifted the Recovery Agency its Te Reo Māori name, which translates as “The Empowering Voice for the Pike 29”. That is a beautiful taonga.

I also want to acknowledge Hon Andrew Little, Minister for Responsible for Pike River Re-entry. Andrew has stood with the families in various capacities since 2010. I know the Minister feels his responsibilities in the portfolio very deeply.

My special thanks to our Deputy PM Winston Peters. He very much wanted to be here and sends his regards. He’s very kindly standing in for me at Parliament today. A double sacrifice!

Greetings, too, to Hon Damien O’Connor, your local MP for West Coast-Tasman, who has advocated for and worked with the families throughout.

And, lastly, can I acknowledge  Dave Gawn, Chief Executive of the agency and former head of the mighty New Zealand Army, and Rob Fyfe, Independent Advisor to the Minister and someone who as CEO of Air New Zealand quietly supported the families in those dark days after the explosion.

But now we must re-double efforts.

We aim for safe recovery of the Pike River mine drift by the end of March 2019. That’s 424 more days. The memory of your men makes every one of those days precious.

Just as we have kept watch on our 100 day commitment here today, we will keep watch on our next important step. We know you are counting on us, but we also know we are not doing any of this alone.

Thank you for having me and my government here today.