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David Cunliffe: Labour to Compensate Pike River Families

David Cunliffe: Labour to Compensate Pike River Families

David Cunliffe's weekly pre-caucus press conference – 19 November 2013

Scoop Audio+Video+Photos

By Hamish Cardwell

Labour has announced it will pay compensation to the families of the 29 miners killed in an explosion at the Pike River mine, and said there had been a “moral failure” by the Government which had left “families in the lurch”.

On the three year anniversary of the Pike River disaster Labour Leader David Cunliffe announced he would pay the $3.4 million court ordered compensation if Labour was elected to govern next year.

“[The Government] has a moral obligation as found by the Commission of Inquiry where the Department of Labour was held jointly responsible for the tragedy. We believe there has been a moral failure of government here in leaving those families in the lurch.”

They would then seek to recover the money from the directors and shareholders of Pike River Coal Ltd.

Pike River Coal and its parent companies had received tens of millions of dollars in insurance payouts but only $5000 out of $110,000 of court ordered compensation per dead miner went to the families in compensation, he said.

“That is reprehensible.”

“Here you have a Commission of Inquiry, you have court ordered compensation, you have a company who have gone into receivership without paying that compensation, you have a a judge who said the parents...and shareholders of that company should have paid and they have not.”

He said he did not think legal action would be required to impel the company to reimburse.

“The companies, shareholders and directors have two choices, one is the easy way the other is the hard way .”

Mr Cunliffe said he would use all the regulatory, legal, or legislative powers of the Office of the Prime Minister, including a private dinner with the Chairman of Pike River Coal and executives so they could see "good sense and decide to take something back to their boards”.

Crown entities ACC and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund owned a 5% and 1.6% stake in the company receptively, and their contributions would be proportionate, Mr Cunliffe said.

Mr Cunliffe said he had preliminary advice from a QC and a senior solicitor that the Pike River tragedy was unique enough to not set a precedent for the government to step in following other work place accidents.

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