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The Pike River Mine Explosion

The Pike River Mine Explosion - Rahui Katene

Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga
Tuesday 23 November 2010

Tena koutou katoa

I rise on behalf of the Maori Party to express our support for the miners, the whanau and the wider community of the West Coast.

The West Coast of the South Island has a unique character that is written in the lives of every Coaster.

It is a place of unbelievable beauty – the wild, untamed bush; the fierce waves crashing on the coastline; the rugged landscape of glaciers, surging rivers, valleys coming together under the towering gaze of the mighty Southern Alps.

This is a land that has been explored by the settlers for well over 150 years – and well before that by the others

This is a land that has welcomed its borders to the entrepreneurs and adventurers seeking to find greenstone, gold, timber and coal.

It resonates with the pioneering spirit and the resilience of the people who have carved out a distinctive place into our nation’s history.

But it is a history, unfortunately, that has also borne the pain all too often of great tragedy. Today that history takes another turn.

We in the Maori Party share with every member in this House the agonising pain of the events that have transpired at Pike River.

In the last few days, I have travelled to Greymouth, and have felt the unspeakable sorrow that is etched in the faces of every single person – be they official, miner, rescue team, agencies, whanau.

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As others have said, this is an extremely close-knit community – a community that places great value on their relationships with each other. Once a Coaster, always a Coaster

It is a community that has held hope high, while also bearing the heaviness of a history that has led them to fear the worst.

This is a community devastated by the fatalities of the Strongman Mine Disaster of 19 January 1967; the Dobson Mine Disaster of 3 December 1926 and the Brunner Mine Disaster of 26 March 1896.

It is a community peopled by descendants who know the stories of a funeral procession 6000 strong; a community where mass graves at Stillwater and Karoro Cemetery mark this tragic past.

And now it is a community hoping, with every breath that they can summon, that there will not be a new date to add to its collective memory – Friday 18 November 2010.

In the midst of the anguish and the fear, there is something so moving about the pioneering spirit that re-emerges to support those who are so devastated by the grief of these days.

I spoke with Ngati Waewae – who are poised, ready to go, to provide the support, the manaakitanga that will be so needed.

I have been humbled by the relentless optimism of all those associated at the site – the mining officials who have invested every ounce of human energy into preparing for the rescue mission.

I have spoken with whanau members with a direct link to the whanau of some of the 29 families involved. They are all on the verge of despair yet clinging valiantly to the hope and faith that will carry them through.

Mr Speaker, our hearts and our aroha are with Te Tai Poutini – we understand the fragile vulnerability of this community – and we must all endeavour to do our best to provide the support that is so vital at this time of crisis.

There will be plenty of time later for reviews, for Commissions of Inquiry, for questions and media interest to be satisfied.

But at this time – this is a community dealing with such an intense and horrific situation that we must caution against any unnecessary or uncalled for attack. The community – just like the mine itself – is on the tip of explosion point. The last thing that any of us would want would be for the volatility of this situation to be provoked.

There are people who are right on the edge – and if I could leave one thought for us all – is that we must apply ourselves to the greatest challenge of this time – to express our compassion; our love; and our unconditional support to help them all walk through the difficult days ahead.

Ma te Atua koutou e manaaki, e tiaki i nga wa katoa.


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