16 Nov 2011

Families say still problems in mine inspectorate

4:36 pm on 16 November 2011

A spokesperson for families bereaved by the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy says deficiencies in the mine inspectorate are causing continuing problems.

The Royal Commission inquiry into how 29 men died in explosions in the West Coast mine almost a year ago is continuing in Greymouth.

A former inspector told the commission on Wednesday of inadequacies and even dysfunction among Labour Department mining inspectors who were supposed to help keep mines safe.

Earlier, the commission heard of spikes in methane emissions in the weeks before the accident; an out-of-date methane monitor; and sparks coming from a machine called a scrubber, which cleans dust out of the air.

A spokesperson for the victims' families, Bernie Monk, says the already-inadequate inspectorate is being slimmed down further because its only inspector is not inspecting, but spending days at the inquiry.

Former Department of Labour inspector Kevin Poynter earlier told the inquiry his service was dysfunctional, saying there was no coordination and it was under funded.

He said he was one of just two members of a supposedly three-person inspectorate, and his later departure from the department reduced the team's manpower to one.

Mr Monks repeated his sympathy for the mining inspectors, who he says were under resourced by their employer.