ANDREW LITTLE: Pike River families deserve justice and support

20/01/2017

In Labour we use the phrase “Kiwi dream” to talk about our vision for New Zealand. To me, it’s a shorthand for the way we as New Zealanders believe in equality, in dignity, in looking out for each other, in doing what’s right even if it’s not easy. It symbolises who we aspire to be and who we are when we are at our very best.

The way the families of the 29 men whose bodies lie in Pike River Mine have been treated is not New Zealand at our best. The endless messing around, broken promises, and mistreatment of people who rightly expected to have everything done to retrieve their loved ones and find hard evidence of what killed them, is not how we expect Kiwis to be treated by their government.

What happened that terrible day at Pike, and what has happened since, should be of immense concern to all New Zealanders. Because it’s bigger than Pike River.

Again and again we see justice for New Zealanders forgone in favour of political expediency and hollow rhetoric. Whether it’s denying the housing crisis, underfunding the health system or cutting backroom deals with Saudi businessmen or Sky City that leave citizens worse off and disenfranchised. Every time, we have drifted further away from who we are as a nation at our best. Every time, we have corroded our moral core just a little bit more.

Just a few weeks after the first explosion, I witnessed this corrosion at the memorial service in Greymouth. Company management, the Prime Minister, and ministers were given the stage over family members. PR seemed to carry more importance than the bereaved.

In the last six years, I’ve stood with the families of Pike – first as head of the EPMU, then justice spokesperson, and as Labour Leader. Promise after promise was made and broken, plans for recovery and re-entry were offered and then withdrawn.

But this week when I was standing with Anna, and Sonya, and Bernie, and Dean and the other family members and supporters at the picket line I realised that things have changed. They are making their own hope now and finding their own power. It shouldn’t have come to this - bereaved mothers, fathers, wives and children having to take matters into their own hands just to get what the Government promised - but it has.

If there is a silver lining, it’s that these families have come together and found strength in each other, and brought their community and the country with them. Taking on the Government and the establishment is not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. The tens of thousands of messages of support, the hundreds of people who have travelled to the picket line, the companies that have refused to take contracts to seal the mine, the political and community groups who have joined the fight - these Kiwis and their acts of solidarity and care have shown what New Zealand can be at its best.

Together, we will fight for justice for Pike families, for the chance to get into the drift and have the broken promises fixed. And for a nation that demonstrates that same belief in dignity and aroha for all New Zealanders.

I support safe re-entry, which the experts say can be done. I want justice for the families of the worst workplace tragedy in decades. If New Zealanders choose to change the Government this year, Pike will be a priority in my first hundred days as Prime Minister.

I urge you all to stand together with Pike. It’s the Kiwi way.

www.facebook.com/standwithpike

source: data archive