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Promises to Pike families must be kept

Six years on from the Pike River disaster, the memory of that day still burns strong, and the families still wait for the Government to make good on its promises. They are still waiting for justice.

Mining communities are special. The work creates a tight bond – your life depends on the person next to you. That spirit of solidarity flows through the whole community. When I was head of the EPMU, the miners were always some of our staunchest members. They stand beside each other no matter what. When tragedy struck, it hit everyone hard.

The grief of the families, friends, and workmates, and the way the whole community rallied around them is still vivid. In that Kiwi way, we all did what we could, no matter how little it may have been. We all understood we needed to help those left behind, get the bodies out, and find out what went wrong so that it would never happen again.

John Key stood in front of those families and said “we’re committed to getting the boys out, and nothing’s going to change that. So, when people try and tell you we’re not… they’re playing with your emotions." That was during an election campaign, though. The families are still waiting.

Now, Mr Key denies ever making that promise. Now, the government wants to seal the mine forever. Just this week, Mr Key sent Nick Smith to threaten the Pike families with arrest if they try to stop Solid Energy entombing their loved ones.

The Government claims it’s not safe to enter the drift and try to get any bodies in there out. That’s not true. Experts, both local and international, say the mine is now stable. We can get those men out, and secure evidence regarding the cause of the explosion. It can be done.

The National Government just wants to wash its hands of the whole thing, and move on. They don’t seem to care no-one has ever faced court for those 29 deaths, or that the families have never got the bodies back to bury.

That’s not the way Kiwis do things. We do right by people. We ensure that, when there is wrongdoing, there is justice. We keep our promises.

I’m standing with the Pike families in opposing the mine being sealed. It’s time a proper effort is made to bring their men home. They’ve waited long enough.