Pike River families say Royal Commission of Inquiry too short

The families of the Pike River Coal victims say The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy will need more than 15 weeks to properly examine the incident.

The inquiry into the explosions that ripped through the underground coal mine on November 19, killing 29 men, will begin on 5 April, with a preliminary hearing in Greymouth.

The 15 weeks of hearings are expected to be held from 6 May to 4 November, but spokesman for the families, Bernie Monk, who lost his son, Michael inside the mine, says the that would not be enough time and they fear shortcuts could be taken.

“None of this short-cutting and making it short just for the sake of the length of the inquiry, no, we’re not happy to do that,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“It’s got to start with how Pike River was actually initially started and where it went from there, right back in the day when the first survey pegs were put in.

Following the disaster, it was revealed that Pike River management were aware of the dangerous gas levels inside the mine.

The lawyer who represents some of the families, Nicolas Davidson QC, declined to comment to NZPA about the inquiry setup.

“We’ve only just received this and the commission clearly has given a lot of thought to how it is going to proceed and there’s a logic in what they are proposing to do.”

“We will have to digest that and fit our representations and submissions to them within these timeframes as everyone will,” he said.

He did say that he would make submissions at the preliminary hearing about “some matters of particular concern” for the families, but would not provide details.

"We essentially intend to say what we wish to say within the commission not by way of media statement. It’s not appropriate for us to run a parallel case outside the commission,” he said.

"From our own inquiries there is a great deal of material that we wish to put before the commission."

The inquiry will run in four stages, first examining the regulatory environment in New Zealand and the geography, as well as approval and development of the mine.

The second will look at the search and rescue operation and cause of deaths, the third the cause of explosions and Pike River Coal’s practises and the final phase will focus on policies governing mining.


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