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Speech notes for Pike River Mine motion

Hon Bill English

Minister of Finance

25 November 2010 Speech Notes

Speech notes for Pike River Mine motion

On behalf of the Prime Minister I move that the House mark the tragic loss of life that has occurred at the Pike River Mine; express its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the men who died; thank the rescue teams and support teams who were so willingly prepared to help; and acknowledge the profound impact on the communities this disaster has affected.

Today is a day for mourning and remembering.

At approximately 3.45 on the afternoon of Friday November 19th a large underground explosion tore through the Pike River Mine, 46 kilometres north-east of Greymouth on the West Coast.

Thirty one men were in the mine at the time of the explosion.

Two escaped to safety. Twenty nine others - 24 New Zealanders, two Australians, two Britons and one South African – did not emerge from the mine.

For five days we hoped they could still be alive.

But at 2.37pm yesterday a second explosion ripped through the mine extinguishing all hope of survival.

The death of these men is a tragedy for their families, their workmates and friends, their community and our nation.

Our thoughts are with the miners' families and their immense grief and loss.
As the Prime Minister said yesterday, "Though we can not possibly feel this pain as you do, we have you in our hearts and our thoughts".

On behalf of the people of New Zealand, this House extends its sympathies and support to the parents, wives, girlfriends, siblings and mates.

It is important in particular that the children who have lost their fathers will remember them with pride and know that their loss was felt by a nation.

Support and condolences have flowed in from throughout the country and around the world. This tragedy reminds us again of the history of Australia and New Zealand standing together in adversity. The Australian mining industry has generously contributed technical expertise and a flag flies at half mast on the ANZAC bridge in Sydney.

We thank all those who have worked so hard on the attempted rescue of these men.
From the moment of the first explosion, they have spent every waking hour tirelessly working, searching for a way to bring these men home alive. We acknowledge their professionalism at a time of enormous frustration.

We also acknowledge all those who have given their time and energy to support the families. Much more will be asked of you in days to come.

The next step now is to make the mine as safe as possible so the men's bodies can be recovered.

It is natural and appropriate that New Zealanders are seeking answers to how this disaster occurred.

Families want certainty about the events leading up to their loved ones' deaths and we all need to know how such a disaster can be prevented in the future.

Cabinet will confirm the details of a Commission of Inquiry at its next meeting on Monday, along with any other inquiries that may be deemed appropriate.

Today we also acknowledge the sense of loss felt by all New Zealanders who have watched the story of the Pike River miners unfold. Each passing day of this tragedy made the hopes and frustrations of their community and their families our hopes and frustrations.

These are men whose names we didn’t know but we instinctively recognise their qualities, collectively, as the best of ours.

These were men who knew the strain and satisfaction of physical work, who lived in a community where team work, hard work and practical skill are respected.

They were breadwinners for their families and earners for their community.

They died - not fighting a war in a strange land, nor taking undue risks; they died, shockingly, going to work.

They were ordinary people who died in extraordinary and horrible circumstances.
Their numbers are no consolation for the grief of each individual family. That is their pain alone.

But the scale and horror of this tragedy has dragged us all to the entrance of the Pike River mine and today we stand there together with the families and the West Coast community contemplating what might have happened in the darkness

Who among us did not hope that the qualities of these men, which we regard as the best of our own qualities, would triumph over the odds and lead them into the light?
It was not to be.

As the tragedy passes it is our hope that the families and communities can be held together by the toughness, the comradeship the resilience and commitment to the common good we share with those who are lost.

The darkness took their lives but it cannot take the love these men had for their families and their mates nor can it take our respect for them

May they rest in peace.

ENDS

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