06 July 2013

Pike River compo reports need to be more accurate

Reports that the government has paid no compensation to the families of the victims of the Pike River mine disaster have not taken account of all the facts. (See for instance stuff.co.nz). The claim comes after the findings against the Pike River Co, under the Health and Safety Act, in which the judge ordered $3.41 million in reparations to the families of the mine-explosion victims, and following the advice from the company's receiver that there was a mere $156,000 left in the kitty to pay out.
I'm unable to find an up-to-date figure on how much compensation to the families has actually been paid so far by the state. But, the ACC's 2011 Annual Report advises that: 'As at 30 June 2011, over $790,000 in assistance had been provided in the form of funeral and survivors’ grants, income maintenance and child care payments' due to the Pike River explosion. That was less than eight months after the disaster, and the sum would have increased substantially since then. It would be good to hear more up-to-date facts from ACC. (But I'm sure ACC would rather keep out of this debate!) Anyway, that's what ACC is for: automatic statutory compensation without having to prove negligence in court.
Once the inquiries and prosecutions are all over, it is predictable that pressure on the government will result, however, in a special payment of compensation to the families of the victims. A precedent has been set by the special payment to families of the victims of the Cave Creek tragedy – although, in that case, a government department was responsible for the faulty construction that caused the accident. It may well be politically expedient for the government to make a similar gesture in due course for Pike River, especially before the 2014 election. After all, the government's loose regulation and inspection of mining was partly to blame.
Money, of course, can never truly compensate for such devastating losses. But most people probably agree that special payments by government can serve as a recognition of the unfairness and magnitude of the loss and as a partial recompense, made on behalf of the New Zealand public.
Due to the ACC law, the families and the two survivors of Pike River are unable to sue for compensation for personal injury in any New Zealand court. Were that not the case, then the families may well have pursued the company's directors, or NZ Oil and Gas, as major shareholders in Pike River Coal, for further compensation. But such civil actions for negligence (in countries that allow them) are unpredictable and costly, so there'd be no guarantee of a successful outcome.
Let's not forget too that many more workers are killed and maimed at work each year, and that they don't get special payments from the government over and above ACC and (when there are successful H&S Act prosecutions) court-awarded reparations.


At 10:07 AM, Blogger HC said...

You forget. ACC was also a shareholder of Pike River.

IMHO the Families should go after the shareholders.


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