Duncan Garner: Police refusal to recover bodies from White Island must be questioned

Opinion 11/12/2019

OPINION: We have a big decision to make as a country: What do we want our first responders to do when it comes to national emergencies.

Blink, delay, wait, and let people die perhaps, or charge in.

Think about the New York firefighters at 9/11 where many ran towards their death in the pursuit of saving lives. Dumb or brave national heroes?

I say we must let calculated courage be our test - and sometimes locals know best, not transplanted police officers from Wellington who take charge because a 50-year-old piece of law says that must be the case. 

Although, I accept in many ways police are damned if they do and totally damned if they don't.

But I applaud the spontaneous, spur of the moment first responders who bravely touched down on White Island on Monday looking for signs of life.

They didn't wait for the cops, they just went in and put their own lives at risk - what a remarkable rescue.

That so many got off. They are now fighting for their lives and will in time receive the attention it deserves. Those local heroes, the chopper pilots, skippers and the like.

That's probably the way it should be - bugger the law and bugger the rules - judge it, call it , do it.

But it's been over 40 hours since the explosion, and the police - the people in charge - have still not set foot on the island because it's too dangerous. 

Of course, it's dangerous, it's a volcano. The island has been smoking and sputtering since 1769 when Captain Cook spotted it.

None of us really know what happens next.

If we waited for the police in these types of events, would we ever enter anything or go anywhere? That's likely to be unfair but it's my job to question this.

But twice now in the past decade, our police have stopped, blinked, waited and waited and waited.

Their refusal to enter Pike River immediately after the first explosion has been widely criticised by families. Now their refusal to land on White Island is being questioned and likened to the Pike debacle.

Our Police are not experts in everything.

Hell, they mistakenly said a criminal investigation had been launched into this White Island tragedy. Wrong. They meant coronial. That's a howler. 

Therein lies the problem. If they can't get the little stuff right, how on earth are we meant to have continued confidence in their calls?

Especially when other heroes have landed on the volcano, saved lives and put the chopper in the hanger.

While for the Police, the clock continues to tick tock tick tock.

Duncan Garner hosts The AM Show.