31 Oct 2013

Compensation blow for Pike families

5:03 pm on 31 October 2013

The spokesperson for some of the families of the Pike River mine disaster victims says he is disgusted New Zealand Oil and Gas has decided not to pay them compensation.

The company held a 29% stake in Pike River Coal at the time of the 2010 explosions that killed 29 men, making it the mining firm's largest shareholder.

Judge Jane Farish awarded reparations to the families in July, despite Pike River Coal being in receivership, hoping the directors or shareholders might be able to contribute.

However, 99% of shareholders at New Zealand Oil and Gas's annual meeting this week voted against the company investigating whether it should pay reparation of $3.4 million.

The company says it has already given $1 million to the families.

A spokesperson for some of the victims' families, Bernie Monk, says he is not surprised the company is avoiding what he sees as its moral obligation to pay them.

"They're a multi-million dollar company that invested in a mine that was unsafe, I find it very disturbing that they've adopted this attitude," he says.

Mr Monk told Morning Report the company was happy to profit from Pike River when the mine was making money, but ran a mile when things went wrong.

He says the families are considering legal options and also need to push for a law change to stop similar situations arising in the future.

New Zealand Oil and Gas chief executive Andrew Knight told Morning Report its shareholders believe they have met their moral obligations to the families of victims without paying reparation.

Mr Knight says the company put $25 million into Pike River following the disaster, including the $1 it contributed to a trust for the families.

He says shareholders had a robust discussion and concluded the company had done enough.

Labour says Pike River reparation decision a sad day

The Labour Party says it's a sad day for the families of the Pike River mine victims and corporate New Zealand that key shareholders in the mine won't pay reparation.

Labour MP for West Coast Tasman Damien O'Connor says it's appalling the company won't pay.

"The judge reccomended that on the basis of thorough investigation, careful consideration the least the company could have done is investigated, but it rejected that.

"So I think it's a very sad indictment on not only oil and gas but on corporate New Zealand."