20 Jul 2011

Lawyer asks why recommendations not acted on

3:26 pm on 20 July 2011

A lawyer says it should not have taken two years for the Department of Labour to act on recommendations to improve safety measures in underground mines.

Nigel Hampton, QC, was speaking at the Royal Commission inquiring into the Pike River coal mine disaster, in which 29 men died last November.

Mr Hampton, representing the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, says a review of mining commissioned by the Department of Labour reported back in June 2009.

Recommendations included technical ways of controlling some mine hazards.

Mr Hampton asked the workplace health and safety manager for the Department of Labour, James Murphy, why the report had not been acted on.

Mr Murphy said the technical measures were still being developed, and could take another year to finalise.

Mr Murphy was also questioned about the opposition of dedicated underground mine inspectors to being transferred to the Labour Department in 1999.

He said rather than considering their objections, the department had got on with the job of changing the inspection regime.

DoC evidence

A Department of Conservation (DoC) officer says it wasn't the department's responsibility to raise concerns about the Pike River company's delays in constructing a second exit from the mine.

Nigel Hampton asked the DoC liaison person with the company from 2005, Mark Smith, about the company's plans to construct a second exit, a plan that he said had been delayed over at least two years.

Mr Smith said DoC did not express concerns about the delays because it was not expert in underground mining.