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Labour's Pike plan 'dangerous': Smith

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/01/2017

Environment Minister Nick Smith says Labour's plan to allow re-entry to the Pike River coal mine is dangerous and contradictory.

Labour wants the government to support a proposed member's bill which would bypass legal barriers to getting back into the West Coast mine's drift, or 2.3km-long entry shaft.

It would remove the liability from the directors of mine owner, Solid Energy. The directors say all the evidence is that it is too risky to go into the potentially explosive methane-filled drift.

But Dr Smith has thinks the idea is "hypocritical and unsafe" and is a bid to outplay NZ First leader Winston Peters politically rather than a consistent approach to safety.

The mine should only be re-entered if it complied with updated workplace safety laws, and exempting it "would set a dangerous precedent", Dr Smith said.

"It would be extraordinary to make an exemption from the Health and Safety at Work Act from the very place where 29 workers lost their lives from inadequate standards that triggered the new law."

Labour had argued these laws were not tough enough and is now being hypocritical in wanting to attempt re-entry, Dr Smith said.

"Either the mine can be safely entered under existing law, or it should not occur."

However, the families of the miners who died in the 2010 disaster are applauding Mr Little's idea.

Sonya Rockhouse, who lost her son Ben, says it gives the government the chance to do the right thing

"It was the government that made promises to get our boys out, it is a government-owned company that has control of the mine, it's on government land.... Now the government can clear the way."

Mr Peters, who has been a longtime advocate for getting back into the drift, is also commending Mr Little's stance.

"If any bodies are there we can get them out, provide their families with overdue closure and gather evidence on why 29 New Zealanders died."

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