Youngest Pike River victim’s family feels cheated

The family of the youngest miner to be killed in the Pike River coal underground mine will only receive a funeral grant from the Accidental Compensation Corporation (ACC).

Joseph Dunbar was only 17 and on his first shift when the blasts ripped through the mine, killing him and 28 colleagues.

But despite millions of dollars in compensation to be paid to the families of the miners, the youngest victim’s family is only entitled to funeral expenses not exceeding $5541.

The decision has left Dunbar’s mother, Pip Timms feeling like her son’s life “wasn’t worth much”.

Timms’ devastation is difficult for her to bear, given that she lost her only son inside Pike River, three days before he was actually due to begin work.

He was so excited about starting the job he convinced his mother to allow him to start early.

She said the situation is upsetting and stressful and she just wants some compassion from the ACC.

“It’s not about the money. I will never have grandchildren. I will never see him get married,” she said.

“He was my world, and that’s the end of it.”

ACC Minister Nick Smith said the ACC’s purpose is not to provide compensation for a death, because “no amount of money can replace a loved one”.

He said their role is to provide income for partners and children to prevent them becoming destitute.

Smith went on to say the ACC has the benefit of avoiding legal action, which would mean it may take years for families to receive compensation.

If the system was used to give lump-sum payout, he said, charges would need to be added to the ACC levy.

A spokesperson for the ACC said it would not discuss individual cases, but would say the entitlements for Pike River families were “linked to dependants, rather than age”.

“Broadly, ACC can provide assistance to families where a family member has died in an accident.

If the person who has died does not have dependants – for example, a partner or children – then their immediate family members can receive a funeral grant,” the spokesperson said.

A one-off survivor grant will be paid to the partners and children of Pike River victims by the ACC, as well as weekly compensation, childcare payments, and funeral grants.

The survivor grant provides $5940 to partners and $2970 for each child under 18, or other dependant.

The weekly compensation payments for partners are 60 per cent of 80 per cent of the earnings of the deceased’s earnings and children or other dependents receive up to 20 per cent of 80 per cent of the victim’s earnings.

The weekly compensation is payable to the spouse for either five years or until the youngest child in their care turns 18 and the weekly compensation for children or other dependents is received until they are 18, or 21 if they are studying full time.

Today advertisements appeared in New Zealand papers calling for expressions of interest to give evidence to the royal commission.

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