By Roger Childs

White Island/Whakaari – disaster mismanagement

IWhite Island 1 (1)t’s now six months since the White Island eruption needlessly killed 20 tourists and left many in hospital with painful burns. A honeymoon couple who have recently recovered is going to sue the Cruise Ship Ovation of the Seas, and White Island Tours. No doubt there will be other law suits to follow. This was a tragedy which could and should have been avoided.

White Island survivorA week before the catastrophe a GNS scientist had cautioned that White Island was entering a period where eruptive activity is more likely than normal. On a scale of five the danger level went up from 1 to 2, however, the iwi operators say that was still inside their safety guidelines. Nevertheless, that increase put the danger up from 20% to 40% — surely too high to risk lives in a potentially explosive and lethal situation?

The cruise ship was only in port for a day and the tour company was clearly motivated by greed when it made the fateful decision to take the tourists out to the dangerous island.

Initially police said there would be criminal investigation but then back-tracked. It should have gone ahead. Then the government dithered and failed to logically set up a Royal Commission. Instead Work Safe New Zealand was given the job to investigate, but will not be finished for another six months. This is a situation where there has been a clear lack of government leadership and direction. The survivors and the families of the people who were killed deserved much better.

Pike River – a ridiculous waste of money

… Andrew Little has said the possibility of recovering bodies during the recovery of the Pike river drift is “very low.” —Dominion Post, Thursday 11 June 2020

Pike River locationAt a recent meeting of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, the Minister in charge of the Pike River re-entry project admitted that one of the key objective was very unlikely to
succeed. Most experts have been saying this for years, but the Coalition Government wanted go where National sensibly did not proceed, and has so far spent $35 million on the doomed enterprise with another $10.8 million promised.

It was estimated that the second explosion in the Pike Rive mine disaster reached temperatures of 3000°C! The sad reality is that almost certainly such extreme heat would have left nothing but ashes of the unfortunate miners caught in the blasts. Add to that the likelihood of there being massive rock falls in the affected shafts.

Pike River Whitall (1)It is time to shift the focus to pursuing the culpability of the Pike River Coal Company. The 29 would be alive today had company boss, Peter Whittall, not been fixated on taking short cuts, ignoring warning signs and failing to provide for worker health and safety, in an unrealistic bid to extract valuable black coal from the Paparoa Range, to keep the shareholders/lenders happy.

It’s time to stop wasting money on a futile recovery effort and close the mine. As Marion Curtin, mother of mine victim Richard Holling, said in January 2020 — Let them rest in peace.

They’re not lost, we know where they are.