New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has confirmed there were issues with safety regulations in the country’s mining industry by admitting the Pike River mine “would be illegal” if it were regulated by Australian standards.
Following the November 19 disaster that killed 29 men inside the underground coal mine on New Zealand’s west coast, a Royal Commission was announced, to investigate the causes of the explosions that ripped through the mine.
Key told The Australian the New Zealand government could not give a full response to the allegations of lax safety procedures and equipment in the country, but said “we do have to ask the question” about safety standards in the industry.
One of the major problems with the tragedy was the one tunnel the men had to escape through, which was filled with toxic gas, making it impossible.
The single tunnel is still creating problems with the recovery efforts, as teams try to find alternate ways to get into the mine and are constantly stalled by the gassy tunnel.
Key said such a problem could never occur in Australia because having a single-entry uphill mine “couldn’t have been constructed in Australia,” because “it would have been illegal.”
He said the industry will be undergoing an overhaul to bring its safety standards up to a similar standard to Australia.
"There will be changes in New Zealand," he said.
The comments come as a contradiction to those made by the New Zealand PM following the tragedy, when he said the safety standards there were the same as those in Australia.
Joanne Ulfer, the mother of Josh, an Australian killed in the disaster told The Australian the admission by Key has made her angry that her son was not properly looked after at work.
"Why didn’t it come out 12 months ago or two years ago when Pike first opened?” she asked.
“They would have kept getting away with it but for this tragedy."
"If anything at all comes out of this, it should be a change in the safety standards."
The admission from the PM comes after the former safety supervisor at Pike River said he left the mine due to its unacceptable safety standards.
“I left there primarily because of my concerns at safety of the place," Peter Sattler told TVNZ’s Sunday program.
Sattler was a supervisor at the mine until he quit in July last year, citing safety concerns.
Last month an audit found safety issues were also present in other New Zealand mines.