Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Clifton on Fa'afoi and Mana

Jane Clifton's always-amusing column in The Listener is about the Mana by-election this week, and about Kris Fa'afoi. And better still; the blogosphere rates a mention. She writes:

He also gave bloggers a great opportunity for mischief when he "misspoke" - claiming to remember the Porirua opening of the first McDonald's - which took place some years before he was born. Subsequently, cyberspace teemed with Photshopped pictures of Faafoi (usually in a tracksuit) on the grassy knoll, at the fall of Saigon, counselling the Pope and moving furnture into the first state house in Miramar.

And anyway, as has been pointed out to this writer by a habitue of the electorate, Mana is a predominantly KFC-eating territory, so he got that wrong too.

Oh dear. Is there a bit of cynicism from Fa'afoi's former journalistic brethren that he has made the move over to the Dark Side? One would have to wonder.

The final result in Mana will be declared any day now though, and Kris Fa'afoi is likely to take his seat in the House when Parliament resumes next week. Doubtless he'll be working on his maiden speech, and we wish him well when the time comes to deliver it. We would counsel him against using the phrase "I remember ..." lest the House dissolve in paroxsyms of mirth!

Talk to the PM

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has just clocked up two years in the job and heads into election year with a 15 point lead over Labour.

So what are the challenges ahead and what have been the highs - and lows - of the first 24 months?

Stuff readers can join the conversation with him today, with Key answering questions live, starting from midday.

Questions will be moderated by Fairfax Media national affairs editor Vernon Small.

Key will be live from midday but readers can log in to the live chat from about 11.45am with questions.

Having the PM make himself avaiable by way of "new media" is innovative, and we will be watching to see how the chat develops. Vernon Small is Fairfax's most senior political journalist, and regular readers will know that we have often accused him of viewing the political landscape through rose-red tinted spectacles, so Key will not necessarily get a soft ride.

The use of blogs, social media and other electronic means will play an increasingly significant role in next year's election campaign. Labour has stolen a march over National with the Red Alert blog, which even though it is heavily moderated at times allows MP's to engage with the great unwashed. Key's engagement via the live chat session today is a smart move.

We'll be interested to see how it works out.

Good decisions on Pike River

John Key announced some of the details of the inquiry into the Pike River tragedy yesterday, and there seem to us to be three particularly good aspects to Cabinet's decisions.

Firstly, we are pleased that the government has chosen to convene a Royal Commission of Inquiry. Pike River is our worst tragedy in terms of loss of life since the Erebus disaster in 1979. That the government has ordered the highest level of inquiry available to it is both heartening and wholly appropriate.

Secondly, the Terms of Reference seem wide-ranging, and importantly, include the question culpability by this government and its predecessor - the Herald reports:

Present and past government ministers are likely to come under scrutiny from the royal commission of inquiry into the Pike River mine tragedy.

Cabinet yesterday approved the setting up of the royal commission - the highest level inquiry the Government can order - into the incident that claimed 29 lives since the initial explosion on November 19.

Prime Minister John Key said the terms of reference were broad enough to include any ministerial responsibility - in his Cabinet or previous ones - for the incident.

Other important questions will be canvassed, including the mine's safety practices and whether they were properly monitored, and what mine managers knew about levels of dangerous gases in the mine at the time the 29 miners entered the mine.

The inquiry will also look at whether the industry was properly resourced - including an examination of whether two national mine safety inspectors are enough - and whether safety was compromised by environmental or conservation concerns.

With 2011 being an election year, this Royal Commission could become a political hot potato. However finding out what happened and why is far more important than any politcal considerations. It is pleasing that the government has not exempted itself or the former Labour government from scrutiny, and from the possibility of an adverse finding. This will, in our opinion, give the Royal Commission a much better framework to determine what REALLY happened at Pike River. That is crucially important, and should be the paramount objective of the Royal Commission.

Lastly, we reckon that in appointing Justice Graham Pankhurst to head the Royal Commission, Cabinet has made an inspired choice. Justice Pankhurst is one of New Zealand's most experienced judges, and is highly respected in legal circles. More importantly, he has strong links to the West Coast, having served seven years as the region's Crown Solicitor. He will know the West Coast psyche well. He is the ideal man for this role.

There has been no date set yet for the Royal Commission to begin its work, not for the appointment of two other commissioners. It will be a long process, but one we hope from which the truth will emerge, however unpalatable that truth may ultimately prove to be.

Monday, November 29, 2010

RIP Leslie Nielsen

The movie world has lost one of its great characters. Leslie Nielsen has died in a Ft Lauderdale hospital at the age of 84.

Nielsen will be best remembered for two roles, both in spoof movies. In Airplane (which appeared here as Flying High), he played the role of the doctor. From there he moved on the the TV series Police Squad where he played the lead role of Officer Frank Drebin. Police Squad spawned the wonderful Naked Gun movies.

Nielsen had a unique style, combining slapstick with a deadpan delivery. He was the source of many laughs for us through the 1980's and early 1990's. His death marks the end of an era, so let's take the opportunity to enjoy a few classic Leslie Nielsen moments ...

Under investigation

We were delighted to read this morning that the collapse of Hanover Finance is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office - the Herald reports:

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) today confirmed that it had been conducting an investigation into Hanover Finance for past three months and it has reasonable grounds to believe fraud may have been committed.

SFO chief executive, Adam Feeley, said accordingly the probe had now been elevated to a "Part II" investigation under the Serious Fraud Office Act.

"Given the intense public interest and media speculation, it has not been appropriate to make any public comment on this matter until we had a detailed understanding of the issues involved, and the entities and individuals behind the Hanover operation," he said.

"We have undertaken extensive preparatory work and are now in a position to move into a more active phase of the investigation."

That is great news. The scale of the Hanover collapse was huge, and around 17,000 investors lost out, to the tune of around $550 million. And Adam Feeley gives a hint as to where the investigations might be leading:

Feeley said that the scale of the Hanover collapse was such that it was not feasible for the SFO to investigate all aspects of its failure.

"We are focusing on some very particular transactions, and specific individuals within Hanover management and their board."

We found it repugnant that the likes of Eric Watson and Mark Hotchin could simply walk away from the Hanover mess. That Hotchin then started to build a $30m monument to his wealth on Auckland's Paratai Drive rubbed salt into the investors' wounds.

The wheels of justice may turn slowly at times, to the immense frustration of those who are seeking that justice. We will be following this investigation and its outcome with interest. We make the same disclaimer today as we did when we blogged on the Hanover situation earlier in the year; Neither me, myself nor I has ever invested money with Hanover, Allied Finance or any related company, nor to our best knowledge has anyone in our whanau. Nor are we ever likely to.

Len Brown's trainset

The Herald has a very interesting editorial this morning on Len Brown's vision to build a central Auckland rail loop; it begins:

A "business case" for a central Auckland rail loop has been endorsed from left and right of the new Auckland Council. Mayor Len Brown found it "compelling", Christine Fletcher, co-leader of the Citizens and Ratepayers minority, said there was a consensus for it.

It is not known how many members of the council are accustomed to assessing business cases for big investments. Transport Minister Steven Joyce seems to know what to look for: figures based on guesswork for wider economic benefits (webs). This report, said Mr Joyce, has "webs on steroids".

It seems that Len Brown has been highly successful in communicating his vision to his new team if he can get such wholesale support from both the left and the right on the new Auckland council. As always however, the devil will be in the detail, and the Herald's leader writer suggests that detail might be in short supply - read on:

It estimates that an underground rail connection from Britomart to the western line, with stations in Albert St, Pitt St, Upper Symonds St and Khyber Pass Rd, would return 3 times its cost in "transformational" benefits to Auckland and the country at large. It would do this by boosting business and employment in the central business district where productivity is higher than average.

Anybody looking for reliable data to support this contention will not find it easily. The report, prepared by consultants for the former Auckland Regional Transport Authority and KiwiRail, is everything those commissioning it could have desired.

It has not subjected their proposal to critical analysis, and does not highlight the likely operating losses that probably would be charged to ratepayers.

That would seem to be a big worry. It's one thing to have a grand plan; it's another thing altogether to burden a city with debt, and with ongoing losses if the rail loop does not operate profitably.

We haven't travelled that much, but when we have visted cities with excellent public transport systems the benefits are obvious. Whoever had the foresight to build tramlines to all parts of Melbourne deserves a medal!

But with benefits come costs. Auckland ratepayers need to know what the true cost of their mayor's vision is likely to be, after all, they are the ones who will bear the greatest part of it. We reckon that Len Brown will need to get a further mandate from those who elected him once the real cost of providing this infrastructure project is known. The voters may have given his VISION the thumbs-up, but they need to be consulted on whether the cost to them and to Auckland is a cost worth paying.

Whether the weather

As the United Kingdom shivers with huge pre-winter snowfalls, down here we're basking in the sun - and it's still spring-time! We blogged a couple of weeks ago about the wonderful spell of weather that Wanganui's been experiencing, and not much has changed in two weeks, except that everything has got a whole lot browner.

Wanganui has received a paltry 12mm of rain so far in November, and following hard on the back of a dry second half of October, things are not looking good, given that summer does not officially start until this Wednesday. I've never seen the countryside look as dry in November as it currently does. The conditions we have now are more akin to what we might expect in late January or February. A couple of farmer friends already have deeply furrowed brows at the prospect of another very dry summer coming on the back of sub-par spring growth. Some agrarian types are already mentioning the dreaded "D" word.

Metservice offers us little hope. The 10-day forecast for Wanganui contains nothing but bright sun icons, with the occasional bit of non-rain-bearing morning cloud. There's certainly no mention of any rain, but that's the commodity we need the most at the moment. Perhaps that's being kept in reserve for the Christmas holidays, but by then it will be too little too late.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pike River mine on fire

There's been another setback at Pike River today - the Herald reports:

Large amounts of smoke and flames are coming from the Pike River Coal mine after a fourth, powerful explosion today and boss Peter Whittall says it may have to be temporarily sealed.

"There is quite a large amount of smoke coming out of the mine. This smoke has changed, it's no longer a gas fire, it's obviously now a coal fire," chief executive Mr Whittall told a press conference at 7pm. Families were told of the news at 5pm.

"Where that coal fire is or how big it is, we don't know."

The worst-case scenario is that the actual coal seam would start to burn. A gas fire was pretty easy to put out, but a coal fire in a seam would be a "very different beast", he said.

This is yet more bad news in terms of the chances of recovering the bodies of the dead miners. It is important that every effort be made to return their bodies to their families to give them a sense of closure. That outcome seems to be getting further away by the day, which merely adds to the anguish of those who grieve.

Woodham on Pike River

The Sunday papers are full of comment on Pike River and its terrible aftermath. We vcould spend all day blogging about it, but we won't; we have places to go and people to see! But this column from Kerre Woodham stands out today; she opines:

Kiwis, take a good look at yourselves. After the tragedy of the 29 men lost at Pike River coal mine, there will be an official inquiry as to what went wrong. That's how it should be.

If this disaster could have been prevented, if mistakes were made in the aftermath of the explosion, it will enable mine companies to provide a safer work environment for their employees in the future.

Everyone involved in the search and rescue operation will have their conduct scrutinised and their decisions dissected - again, that is right and proper.

But I hope a few New Zealanders take a long hard look at their own conduct too. What on earth made many people, whose only experience with coal mines was driving past one, assume that they knew more than guys such as Pike River boss Peter Whittall - a man with nearly 30 years' experience in coal mining and a man who was a personal friend and colleague of most of the guys trapped? I know zip - diddly squat - about mining and combustible gases. Therefore I relied on the men in charge to make the right calls.

The families of the men trapped had the prerogative of dealing with their fear and pain as best they could and anger and frustration were understandable.

But complete randoms who had absolutely no knowledge of the families involved, the West Coast or mining were coming up with some truly bizarre suggestions through talkback and online forums all week.

The most common one was that it was "PC gone mad" that rescuers were holding off from rushing into the mine. The (mostly) men who commented online were all for the Colonel Custer type of action - anything is better than doing nothing, even if it means certain death for you and any possible survivors.

These were blokes who yearned to wear their undies on the outside of their trousers and play Superman for a day. I'm sure their motives were pure but if Dan Rockhouse, one of the survivors of the initial blast and a man with a brother trapped in the mine, understood the necessity of waiting, what gave armchair critics the right to criticise and worse - accuse the rescuers of deliberately sitting on their hands?

There's more, but we reckon that Kerre Woodham has perfectly summarised the dilemma faced by the rescuers and the public response. Time will tell where any blame lies. In the meantime we should be grateful that there were men ready to go into the mine when the command was given, but also that there was no additional loss of life after the initial catastrophic explosion.

Christian Music Sunday - 28 November 2010

In August 2005, Third Day released its excellent album Wherever You Are. Among the songs on the album was one called Cry Out to Jesus. No-one could have conceived what would happen next.

Just days later Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the USA. The devastation was enormous. But suddenly the words of Cry Out to Jesus took on a really prophetic meaning. Third Day made the song available for download, and for every download, money was donated to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. In just a matter of days, well over US$100,000 was raised. At the time, Third Day's lead singer Mac Powell noted:

"We can't turn on the news without our hearts breaking for the people suffering through the devastation left by Katrina. Our sincere desire for "Cry Out To Jesus" is to offer hope to hurting people. We know people's lives will be forever changed by the storm that hit this week. Our prayers and thoughts are with our brothers and sisters and their families in the Gulf States. Whe hope this song can bring even a small amount of hope and light to this dark hour." - Mack Powell (Third Day) Go to the Third Day website!

New Zealand has had its own catastrophe this week. It is our hope and prayer that this video might bring comfort today to someone who is mourning and hurting.

All Blacks vs Wales; live from the couch!

It's game-time; follow the progress here. The crowd has just observed a minute's silenece in memory of the Pike River miners, and now the male choir is belting out the anthem. What price that Kapa O Pango is the haka tonight?

It's time, as Guide Me O Thy Great Jehovah rings around the stadium ...

The second half begins ... perhaps Alan Lewis will police the offside line

43min - a long sequence of play to open the second half
46min - the Welsh attack, and the crowd finds its voice. But the All Black defence is too good. They need a try to silence the crowd.
48min - Nonu on for SBW
50min - the Welsh attack again, and Braid is binned for not rolling away. Jones goals and it's the AB's by one; 13-12. Keep your tracksuit on, Stephen Donald!
52min - Try-time! The Welsh miss touch from a penalty, Nonu, Smith and McCaw attack down the right, quick ball and Hosea Gear gets number two on the left. Carter converts from the sideline and Nisbo says "There's breathing space" - New Zealand 20-12
61min - the All Blacks do a masterly job of running the clock down while Braid is off. They win a penalty just outside the Welsh 22 and it's meat and drink for Carter. Braid returns and the All Blacks lead 23-12.
63min - another penalty to Wales - 23-15 - still no sign of Stephen Donald
67min - ANOTHER penalty against the All Blacks as the ground cuts up and the scrum collapses - Jones goals from 47 metres - 23-18 and the crowd finds its voice again.
73min - Try-time, and surely that's the ballgame. Brad Thorn throws the money-ball to Boric and Toeava scores the All Blacks' fourth try - Carter again coverts from the sideline and the All Blacks lead 30-18. The crowd is silent.
76min - an in-pass from Cowan and John Afoa sprints 30m to score by the posts - Carter goals and it's 37-18. Carter has a rest; surely the game is safe enough for Stephen Donald.
78min - McCaw cops an absolute coathanger; Lewis does nothing.
Jerome Kaino is the Man of the Match; quite possibly his best-ever test match performance
80min - a late consolation try for the Welsh, who shouldn't have been in possession had the referee penalised the stiff-arm on McCaw - the try is converted and the match ends at 37-25. Five tries to one is a more convincing margin than the 12-point scoreline


2min - A penalty to Wales after a soft late charge by Hosea Gear - Wales 3-nil
4min - A penalty, a lineout, a black wave attacks and Hosea Gear redeems himself from a Toeava offload - Jonny Wilkinson's record still stands - New Zealand 5-3
7min - YES! Dan Carter kicks a penalty from halfway, and is now the highest point-scorer in test rugby; sorry Jonny! - New Zealand 8-3
20min - The match is being played at a frenetic pace. A few of the boyos are just hanging on. There's a poor kick by Wales, the All Blacks run the ball back and Muliaina scores a brilliant counter-attacking try - Carter misses, but it's 13-3
31min - The Welsh have a good period on attack, but the try is bombed
34min - another penalty to the Welsh - New Zealand leads 13-6
36min - Keiran Read's magnificent season ends; replaced by Daniel Braid
38min - Wales succeed in slowing the game down and earn a penalty - 13-9
40min - Carter misses from half-way, and the teams head for the sheds. Wales is hanging in, but we wonder if the pace of the game will tell in the second half.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Auckland; You voted for him

It's only a mere six weeks since the results of the local body elections were announced, and Len Brown became the first Mayor of the Auckland Supercity. And it hasn't taken long for the first of the paybacks - Stuff reports:

The boss of Auckland mayor Len Brown's former council looks set to get a top position in the new Super City council.

Leigh Auton, who received a $171,700 redundancy cheque when he left Manukau City Council in October as chief executive, decided not to apply for a job at the Auckland Council, saying he would instead setup a consultancy business.

In December last year he formed Auton and Associates Ltd which he runs from his Manukau home.

But now Fairfax can reveal Auton could be appointed director of the Property Council Controlled Organisation (CCO).

At the CCO appointments committee next Thursday the $35,000 appointment will be debated and voted on. It is understood Brown wants Auton in the job.

Auckland Council insiders have said the agenda item will be held behind closed doors during a confidential segment of the meeting.

Isn't that convenient? Leigh Auton walks away with a six-figure golden handshake. Within weeks, he walks into another well-paying gig, with his redundancy largely untouched. The common denominator is Len Brown.

That famous dinner at Volare restaurant in September 2009 must have been a doozie. Why else would Len Brown and Leigh Auton have gone to such lengths, including the stonewalling of an inquiry by the Ombudsman to protect the identity of the attendees, paid for by the ratepayers of the former Manukau City? Who or what is Len Brown trying to hide. Is "honesty, with limits" good enough for the mayor of New Zealand's largest city.

Aucklanders; you voted for Len Brown, and in pretty significant numbers. Is anyone concerned by this latest development?

The Saturday Quote; Peter Whittall edition

The Herald profiles Pike River Mine CEO Peter Whittall today. The whole piece is worthy of a read, but this part especially stood out:

"He knows what makes people tick. He identifies with their wives and kids. Peter employed most of them he played squash with them, drank beer with them. They were his family.

"If he hadn't been born in Wollongong he probably should have been born in Greymouth because the people in Greymouth see him as a Coaster and if you could see the outpouring of love, support and affection that he has received during the past few days it's boosted his sense of belonging to this community.

"In a meeting which he came into with his legs trembling to tell families he didn't think there was any chance any of the staff had survived the second blast ... he described it as the worst moment of his life ... and yet, if you'd seen the number of people who burst into tears and threw their arms around his neck ... "

St Patrick's School in Greymouth is where Whittall's teacher wife Leanne worked and where their daughter, Heather, and young son, Morgan attended. The school motto "Treat others as you would like them to treat you" might as well have been Whittall's. "Peter is ... well, we all love Peter," says St Patrick's principal, Mary-Clare Murphy. "He's just a friend to everyone.

"This week, he has been God-inspired."

We find it very hard to disagree with the closing sentiment.

All Blacks versus Wales - 27 November 2010

The rugby season ends in the early hours of tomorrow morning when the All Blacks take on Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The All Blacks have gone through the motions a bit so far on the end-of-season tour, and there's a sense that they can't wait to get home and hit the beaches. But there's a job to do first, and Graham Henry is looking for a convincing win over the Welsh.

We're not going to go into a man-by-man dissection of the All Balcks except to say that we doubt that the Welsh midfielders will be looking forward to having Sonny Bill Williams running at them. This would be a good match for SBW to break his All Black try-scoring duck. We are however puzzled that Isaiah Toeava has been preferred to Cory Jane on the right wing. Jane has been one of the outstanding players of 2010, and has made the right wing position his own. Toeava played well against Scotland, but Jane is a far superior player in our ever-humble opinion.

There are two major milestones for the All Blacks to celebrate tomorrow morning. First-up, it's Brad Thorn's 50th test match; a fantastic achievement for the old war-horse. The Herald profiled him yesterday, and it's well worth a read. We did some trainspotting, and discovered that as well as having played 49 test matches to date, Thorn has 200 NRL appearances, 22 test or State of Origin league matches and 77 games for the Crusaders; tomorrow morning will be his 300th match at the elite level in a career spanning 17 seasons. We hope that he has one season left in him, and that he can cap off his career with the big prize; the Webb Ellis Cup.

And Dan Carter is posied to become test match rugby's highest point-scorer. His last-gasp conversion of the final try in the match against Ireland slid agonisingly past the upright; it would have equalled Jonny Wilkinson's record of 1178 points. Carter sits on 1176, and barring some sort of miracle-in-reverse, will surely hold the record by the time we have breakfast tomorrow morning. And it's all his parents' fault, as Stuff reports:

Sitting on a half-acre section in Leeston stands a set of goal posts that helped develop a boy into a goal-kicking machine.

A frustrated Neville Carter and wife Bev decided to buy some land next door and pay a local engineer to erect a set of steel goal posts.

A whippet of a lad by the name of Dan was the source of their aggravation. The youngster damaged their spouting as he repeatedly attempted to kick a ball over their house. Enough, they decided, was enough.

Now the All Blacks are about to reap the benefits of the Carters' foresight as, Dan, who is just two shy of Jonny Wilkinson's world record points total of 1178, is ready to create history against Wales at Millennium Stadium tomorrow morning.

It will be a remarkable achievement for a bloke who once admitted that if he wasn't a professional rugby player he may have returned to help his father on building sites.

The All Blacks should win tomorrow morning, and win well. Then we can all take a breather from rugby for a couple of months!

A bright future

Tonight is a big night for James Musa. The 18-year-old defender from Wanganui will make his professional football debut for the Wellington Phoenix in their home match against the Melbourne Victory. The Dom-Post reports:

Ricki Herbert will take one of the biggest punts of his coaching career by handing Whanganui teenager James Musa his Wellington Phoenix debut at Westpac Stadium tonight.

Normally a centre back, Musa will play left back against a Melbourne Victory side including A-League MVP Carlos Hernandez, the competition's all-time leading goalscorer Archie Thompson and rising star Robbie Kruse.

The usually conservative Herbert had other options, including shifting Manny Muscat or Vince Lia out of midfield and recalling Simon Elliott, but he has chosen to gamble.

A friend of ours is heavily involved in local football, and his opinion is that Musa is a star in the making. Born in England, he has played almost all of his football in the River City having moved here at the age of six. His father Memo was CEO of Good Health Wanganui, and his other Mandy is a mainstay of women's football here.

We'll have a close eye on James Musa's debut tonight. He was spotted at a national age-grade torunament last year, offered a six-week trial with the 'Nix and showed enough to earn his first professional contract. Bin Sigmund's misfortune is Musa's gain, and we wish him every success tonight.

Old rockers never die ...

Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart et al may seem ageless, but the ravages of time have caught up with one sextigerian rocker - read on:

Singer Billy Joel is recovering from a double hip replacement, his publicist said on Thursday.

"Billy Joel is doing extremely well following bilateral hip replacement and will be back at his Long Island (New York) home by the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend," Joel's publicist Claire Mercuri said in a statement.

Grammy Award-winner Joel, 61, is the singer of hit songs "Piano Man," "My Life," and "Just the Way You Are," among others, and has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

He released "Billy Joel: The Hits" last week to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his first solo album.

There'll be no holding him back now; Bionic Billy! So here, for no other reason than because we can, is our all-time favourite Billy Joel track ...

Friday, November 26, 2010


It's 3.44pm on Friday 26 November 2010.

At 3.44pm one week ago, there was a huge explosion in the Pike River coal mine. At this very minute today, there will be a gathering at the entrance to the mine to honour the men who died. Pike River CEO Peter Whittall has called for a moment's silence at 3.44pm, and this post is our way of responding, and showing our ongoing support of everyone involved in this tragedy.

Lawrence Binyon's words seem appropriate today:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

We will indeed remember the Pike River 29; may they rest in peace.

What say you now Labour?

The Court of Appeal has spoken. It has affirmed Phillip Field's convictions and sentence for bribery and corruption. The Herald reports:

Disgraced former politician Phillip Field has failed to overturn his conviction on fraud charges or have his six-year jail sentence reduced.

Field was jailed in October last year after being convicted by a jury in the High Court in Auckland of 11 charges of bribery and corruption as a Member of Parliament and 15 charges of perverting the course of justice.

He was charged after then prime minister Helen Clark ordered an inquiry into allegations Field had traded immigration favours for tiling, painting or plastering work on his properties in New Zealand and Samoa by Thai nationals.

The Court of Appeal released its decision today and said Justice Rodney Hansen had correctly interpreted the law, directed the jury and allowed evidence.

It also found the convictions were right and the sentence should be upheld.

The perversion of justice charges were very serious, the finding said.

"Mr Field had been manipulative and adaptive and not only lied himself, but procured others to lie as well and create false documents in an endeavour to head off the consequences of his wrongdoing.

Phillip Field was a Labour Party electorate MP and a Minister in Helen Clark's government when these offences were committed. The initial inquiry convened by Helen Clark and undertaken by Noel Ingram QC had such narrow terms of reference that its findings were largely pre-determined. Field was only suspended from the Labour caucus when he threatened to stand as an independant MP.

When the Ingram report was released, there was an Urgent Debate in Parliament on its conclusions. Among other things, Labour MP's said:

Dr Michael Cullen: So Mr Field has some matters to work through with the Labour leadership and the Labour whips. But he works incredibly hard on behalf of his constituents. He has people coming to him from all over Auckland for assistance, not just in immigration cases but in many other cases. He works harder on those matters than I suspect the entire National Party caucus does on constituency cases. If that is what he is guilty of, then I am sure he is happy to plead guilty to working hard on behalf of his constituents.

Phillip Field: I am delighted that the Ingram report has now finally been completed and that I have been cleared of the serious, false allegations of conflict of interest. Over the past 9 months my personal honesty and integrity have been attacked, and those attacks were extremely unpleasant and hurtful, not only to me but to my wife, family, and community. Yet I have known all along that the allegations were false and defamatory, and I believe that those say more about the accusers than me. I repeat again in this House that the only thing I am guilty of is going the extra mile for those in a desperate situation who come to me for help. This may involve what is implied in the report with regard to the question of judgment, as my colleague who spoke previously mentioned. I can say that I am human and that we all occasionally make mistakes and errors of judgment, but that does not remove the genuine intention to help people in need. It has been frustrating that it has taken so long for my name to be cleared, but, in the end, I am satisfied that justice has been done.

The following week in the General Debate, Phil Goff said this, in response to allegations of corruption against Field by Dr Lockwood Smith:

All I do is invite that member to have the courage to make whatever inference he wants to make, outside of this House, and I will pull the rug out from under his feet so quickly he will not know which country he is in. I invite the member to have the courage to do that, but I know that member will not have the courage because there is no substance.

History will show that there WAS indeed substance to the allegations of corruption against Phillip Field. As mentioned above, the second-highest Court in the land has affirmed the convictions and sentence.

Labour is still silent on it's former MP and Minister. When Field was convicted, the only comment from the Labour Party came from Darren Hughes who said that Labour "acknowledged" the verdicts. There has never been a word of condemnation from the Labour Party.

It is time for Labour to break the silence. What say you, Labour MP's?

Ain't that the truth

It seems to be a strange time to be featuring a cartoon. But a West Coast resident brought this to our attention. Guy Body from the Herald has done an excellent pictorial commentary on all the armchair experts who have been so vociferous since the first Pike River mine explosion last Friday afternoon ...

There's more than a whiff of truth to this one ...

This Sporting Life - 26 November 2010

Another Friday; another edition of This Sporting Life. It's hard to believe that it's been eleven months since we re-launched Keeping Stock after a brief "retirement", and introduced This Sporting Life as a replacement to the Friday Forum, which frequently turned into a discussion on sport! Tempus has most certainly fugited!

The big sporting gig this weekend is the first Ashes at the 'Gabba in Brisbane. Australia is on top after day one, but if the conditions in Brisbane remain as they were yesterday, we reckon that Jimmy Anderson could be a handful today, as was Peter Siddells yesterday. What a day it was for Siddells; his 26th birthday, a six-for, and that rarest of beasts, an Ashes hat-trick. We'll be working from our home office today!

The Black Caps' test series against India ended with a whimper, but that was no surprise. The Black Caps simply do not play enough test cricket, and back-to-back-to-back test matches proved too much for them. The team was competitive in the first two tests, but we reckon that the third test result had more to do with fatigue than anything else. We're just hoping now that the team will be competitive in the ODI series which starts on Sunday.

The rugby season ends on Sunday morning, thank goodness. The All Blacks should comfortably dispose of Wales, after which they can rest up a bit. We'll preview the match tomorrow, but for the trainspotters out there; which All Black has the middle name Carnegie? The answer is here.

Elsewhere, the Wellington Phoenix will look to extend their unbeaten home run to two matches when they play Melbourne Victory tomorrow night, and the NZ Breakers have returned to the top of the ANBL after a win last night against Gold Coast. It's tight at the top of the Barclay's Premiership, and although The Arse stumbled against London rivals Spurs last week, the teams around them are stumbling as well, week by week. This could be the best contest for many a year.

That's all that we can think of today; if we've missed something important, you'll doubtless let us know. The floor is yours!

"Normal" blogging resumes

Blogging hasn't seemed especially important over the last week, and especially so over the past 36 hours. The news that the 29 Pike River miners could not have survived the second massive explosion in the mine puts the discussions we have in the blogosphere into context.

We've done a bit of reflection since we heard the awful news on Wednesday night. Yesterday was devoted to the memory of the 29 men who died at Pike River; a mark of respect to them and to their families. Normal blogging will resume today, although we may be a bit introspective; the enormity of the tragedy at Pike River still weighs heavily.

Right; what's been happening out there?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In the House

We watched Parliament this afternoon. Bill English moved a motion on behalf of the Prime Minister relating to the Pike River coal mine tragedy. All who spoke today spoke from the heart, and in a way which dignified the memory of the miners who died in the mine explosion.

One speech demands further attention. Te Ururoa Flavell spoke last, on behalf of the Maori Party, after Jim Anderton and Peter Dunne. He spoke entirely in te reo Maori. Our knowledge of te reo is rudimentary at best, but we were able to understand most of what he said. At the conclusion of his korero Flavell led the House in the waiata - Whakaaria Mai (accompanied by the rather magnificent voice of Dr Lockwood Smith) and closed with a karakia. To say that it was incredibly moving is an understatement. We're getting pretty cynical as we age, but there was mist in our eyes at the end. Here's the moment, courtesy of In the House:

It is a rare day that Parliament is wholly united. However those in the House today have honoured the memory of those who lie in the Pike River mine.

New Zealand mourns...

Cometh the hour, cometh the man

We've watched and we've waited for five days, and now that the deaths of the 29 Pike River miners has been confirmed, a deep sense of sorrow has descended across the country.

In the West Coast's time of trial, one true hero emerged; Peter Whittall, the CEO of Pike River mine. His grace, his openness and honesty and his compassion have been only too evident since Friday night. He has been a rock. We've long known the saying in the title line - cometh the hour, cometh the man. Peter Whittall has been the man for the West Coast's darkest hour.

Peter Whittall is an Australian. That does not stop us from unhestitatingly nominating him as the New Zealander of the Year. He is one of us now; inextricably linked. Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn is close behind, but it is Peter Whittall's leadership that will remain an enduring image. Both men are in our thoughts and prayers this morning.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pike River; a second explosion

It now seems inevitable that all the trapped miners at Pike River have perished, even if they survived the first explosion. There was a second massive explosion at 2.27pm this afternoon.

Words fail us. This is not the outcome that anyone wanted, but it has increasingly been the outcome we have all feared. Our deepest condolences and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the whanau of the trapped miners. Nothing that we say can be of any consolation to them, except to remind them that we grieve with them tonight.

Grey District's mayor Tony Kokshoorn has described this as "the West Coast's darkest hour", and it's hard to disagree. This is a tragedy of great dimension, made worse because it has occurred in such a small and tight-knit community. As we type this Peter Williams is interviewing Gerry Brownlee on One News, and both men are close to tears. There will be a huge outpouring of grief no doubt.

Now is not the time to apportion blame. There will be no end of inquiries over the coming months, and that is where the tough questions should be asked. It's not for us armchair experts to point the finger of blame. We do think though that it is now time for the news media to pull out of Greymouth and to let the locals grieve in peace.


Season on the line

The Wellington Phoenix play another home mid-week fixture tonight, and their season is well and truly on the line. Two consecutive home defeats has but the 'Nix on the back foot, and we've just heard on the radio that they've had a players-only meeting. The Dom-Post has this to say about tonight's match:

Nothing else has worked so the Wellington Phoenix are adopting a good old-fashioned siege mentality in a bid to shake their A-League season out of the doldrums.

Halfway through the competition the Phoenix are floundering in eighth place ahead of tonight's game against Melbourne Heart at Westpac Stadium.

Several players refused to talk at their media session yesterday, which isn't a great way to promote the game at a time when they desperately need the support.

Crowds have already been dwindling with few more than 5000 turning out for each of the club's last three home games.

It is one thing to lose but the Phoenix have also been losing ugly after talking themselves up as title contenders before the season started.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert did front reporters but he appears to be running out of answers or inspiration.

He was waiting until today to choose his team and fired a few shots at those calling for changes.

"It's my responsibility to make the change, not listen to people out there," Herbert said. "I'm very supportive of the players and for all the football experts out there, they can have their opinion but at the moment it's only mine that counts."

We really do wish the 'Nix well for tonight's match. The side has so much potential, put its performances have been lacklustre of late. The issues that club owner Terry Serepisos is having with paying his bills are an unwelcome distraction, and the crowds for home games have been down this year, although to be fair, the weather seems to have been at its worst whenever the 'Nix is playing!

So let's hope that tonight marks a turning point in the Nix's 2010-11 season, just as this match was thirteen months ago ..

Come on you Phoenix!

90-day law passes

The government has held its nerve, and major changes to employment legislation have been passed by Parliament - the Herald reports:

Employment law changes which were fiercely fought by unions and the Labour Party have been passed by Parliament.

The 90-day trial period for new employees has been extended to all businesses, and workers will be able to cash in the fourth week of their annual leave.

The separate bills passed their third readings yesterday, both on votes of 64 to 56.

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the 90-day trial period, which previously applied to businesses with 20 or fewer employees, had been a success.

It was introduced soon after the 2008 election, amid strident union protest.

"Rather than have the sky falling in, as was hysterically proclaimed, employers of small and medium-sized businesses gained the confidence to hire new employees," Ms Wilkinson said.

" Without the trial period, hundreds of New Zealand workers would not have the jobs they currently do have."

Very few employers want high staff turnover. The cost of training and equipping new employees is not inconsiderable, and no employer consciously wants to add costs to their business. High staff turnover is also disruptive. We doubt that there would be many employers who enter into this area with the intention of moving staff on after 89 days.

Employment law is a minefield. In our opinion the balance tilted too far in favour of the employee during the term of the last government; that is entirely as one would expect, given Labour's strong links to the union movement. National campaigned on a policy of reform in this area, was elected, and has delivered.

We haven't made any decision yet as to whether or not we will avail ourselves of the 90-day provisions. We'll talk to our advisors, look at the pros and cons, and make an informed decision. When we hire new staff (and we have employed more than 20 people in the last three years), it is our goal that they will be with us for the long haul. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way, for a variety of reasons. We won't be rushing in to subscribe to the new policy, but it's nice to know that it is now available to us if we choose to make it a matter of mutual agreement when negotiating conditions with new employees.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pike River; it's not looking good

The mood seems to have taken a decidedly sombre trun at Pike River coal mine today. The police have conceded that it is likely that there have been fatalities, and have released a security video to the media - have a read of this, from Stuff:

Dramatic footage of a massive 52-second-long gas explosion has been shown to families of trapped West Coast coal miners.

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the video of the explosion clip had made a significant impact on the families.

"It wasn't nice. There was a huge amount of force coming out of the front of the mine and it went for 52 seconds.

"It was continuous and the frightening thing is, it was probably up to 2.5km from the source. We are talking about what was being blown out of the exterior mine mouth. It's a shame - it was considerable force.

At a press conference currently underway Superintendent Gary Knowles said the likelihood of a rescue was diminishing. "The situation is bleak, it is grave", he said.

This is the first mention we've heard of the existence of a security video. We wonder now when the police first became aware of it. We're still at work, and won't get home until later tonight, so we are unsure if it has been shown in the news. But it all sounds grim.

UPDATE: As we were typing this, DPF has posted a link to the video courtesy of 3News. It's incredibly sobering and moving to watch what is quite likely the last moments of the 29 miners' lives. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families and friends.

The Tuesday Quote - 23 November 2010

We were going to post this yesterday, but we ran out of time due to an abbreviated working day. But we couldn't let this gem from Dom-Post political writer Tracy Watkins pass without an honourable mention - she writes:

Far from a repudiation of the Government's record and policies, including tax cuts and the rise in GST, National would have been entitled to claim the result as a ringing endorsement.

On a straight two-party comparison, the figures don't look good for Labour – a 6.6 per cent swing to National in one of Labour's safest seats.

Forget the party faces of Saturday night, the post-mortems will focus on what went wrong. By-elections are supposed to give voters a chance to send a message to Wellington – and by that we don't usually mean the Opposition.

It isn't so long ago, after all, that voters had their chance to send Labour a message, in 2008. What Saturday's result suggests is that they haven't changed their mind at all since doing so.

Oh dear. We wonder if Phil Goff's NEW chief press secretary showed him this one, and whether Francesca Mold has asked Phil for a safe seat yet - if the Labour Party has such a thing post-Mana!

"A poor parenting decision" - yeah right

A "poor parenting decision" - that's the defence that Rikki Ngatai-Check is going to use in the High Court in Wanganui this week. We'll spare you the worst of the details (they're NOT nice), but Stuff reports:

The Crown will argue that because Ngatai-Check delivered more than one kick, with such force, to a boy who weighed only 11.5kg, he must have known the blows would be fatal. But Ngatai-Check's lawyers will argue that he simply made a poor parenting decision – however irrational – making him guilty of manslaughter, not murder.

Now, we don't know where Rikki Ngatai-Check got his parenting information from - he's not the child's father, after all - but somehow we believe that kicking a two-year-old child to death wasn't in any of the manuals. Perhaps it came from his "cousin" - read on:

Ngatai-Check was in a relationship with the mother of Karl Perigo-Check but is not related to the boy. He was loosely described in court as a cousin of the boy's father, Karl Check, who is in jail for the murder of Jhia Te Tua, 2.

We'll say no more on this case until the verdict.

Good news from the Hawkes Bay DHB

Remember Baygate?

first blogged about the troubles at the Hawkes Bay District Health Board in February 2008 when then Health Minister David Cunliffe sacked the democratically elected Board. That former Health Minister Annette King's husband was closely associated with tendering for services at the DHB led to suggestions of a political cover-up in the lead-up to the 2008 election. A High Court judicial review of Cunliffe's decision was narrowly avoided, and when Tony Ryall became Health Minsiter after the 2008 election (where both Hawkes Bay MP's had significant increases to their majorities), one of his first actions was to reappoint the sacked Board.

Yesterday, the final piece of the puzzle fell into place; have a read of this, from the Bay Buzz:

Kevin Atkinson has been appointed chair of the Hawke’s Bay DHB by Health Minister Tony Ryall.

That’s terrific news for those who believe the point of having elected DHB’s is to ensure some measure of accountability to the community. Having an elected chairman — especially one who rolls up his shirtsleeves, intelligently questions the DHB bureaucracy, and welcomes interaction with the public, all Atkinson trademarks — will make a big difference in terms of DHB responsiveness.

Interestingly, our DHB is one of only five in the country (out of twenty DHB’s) where Ryall appointed an elected member as chair. Ryall has been quite outspoken about the DHB’s requiring top echelon leadership going forward. His action is a real credit to Atkinson, made all the more rewarding given the sorry “interruption” in DHB democracy in Hawke’s Bay.

As the Bay Buzz's author notes, this IS terrific news, and it is hopefully the final chapter in the Baygate saga. Our many friends in the Bay have sung Kevin Atkinson's praises, describing him among other things as a man of integrity, a man who has served his community with distinction, and a man who does not gladly suffer fools.

We reckon that it is great that Atkinson has been restored to his former role, which was ripped away from him by the man who wants to lead the Labour Party. Kevin Atkinson's healing and restoration is complete; David Cunliffe's might take some time yet.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tiger Woods he's not!

Regular readers will know that we enjoy a round of golf, but as of late have not been playing anywhere near as frequently as we would wish. We'll never be especially good, but it's good, healthy exercise, even though golf is, as Mark Twain so eloquently put it "a good walk spoiled". And so, as a golfer of mediocre ability, we can appreciate this guy - read on:

Ali Ahmad Fazel is returning to Afghanistan confident in his dream of becoming a professional golfer despite finishing last at the Asian Games, a massive 194 shots off the lead.

The diminutive 19-year-old fired a 40-over-par 112 in the fourth and final round, a marked improvement on his opening 58-over-par round of 130. His four-round total was an eye-watering 467, well off the winning 273 posted by South Korea's gold medallist Kim Meen-Whee.

''My goal is to become a professional golfer,'' promised Fazel. ''I'm not sure how long that will take, maybe five years, but I'll work and work at it.''

Wearing a green cap, well-ironed light jeans and a white polo shirt with ''Kabul Golf Club, Afghanistan'' emblazoned on it, Fazel admitted that the lush surrounds of the plush Dragon Lake golf course were not like his home club.

''It's my first time playing on grass, so I'm happy with my performance,'' said the youngster, who is jobless while waiting to take up a university place.

Full marks to Ali Ahmad Fazel for fronting up at the Asian Games, and for counting every shot that he struck. If nothing else, golf is a game of honesty and integrity, and Fazel can walk away with his head held high, even if his best score was even worse than our worst score on any Wednesday haggle this year. Let's hope that he gets the opportunity to play on grass a bit more frequently; after all it's a world away from the sandy fairways and sand-and-oil greens of his home course, upon which both we and Tiger would possibly struggle!

Pike River - 3 days on

There's still no encouraging news from Pike River coal mine with regard to the 29 men trapped underground. To say that the situation is getting dire is an understatement. It is impossible to imagine the anguish of the families who are waiting, and who are holding out hope for a miracle.

There's no shortage of "expert" opinion doing the rounds however. We had the radio variously on Newstalk ZB and RadioLive during the drive home this morning. Michael Laws is critical of the delay in sending men into the mine, whilst Leighton Smith is a little more circumspect. Then we heard the words of Pike River CEO Peter Whittall at the most recent media briefing; he said:

"There's a lot of speculation. The only ones that really know what is going on is the people who are on site."

We concur with Mr Whittall. No-one who isn't involved with this situation REALLY knows what is going on. Speculation as to the resucuers' motives, and as to the cause of the explosion at Pike River is just that; speculation. We'd certainly place Peter Whittall's knowledge of what is happening and what needs to happen far ahead of that of Michael Laws.

In the meantime, all we can do if hope, pray - and wait.

Kris Faafoi Caption Contest

So, Kris Faafoi is the new MP for Mana, although some have been so unkind as to suggest that he might be better given the title of MP for Cannon's Creek, as that is where his majority came from.

But he won, and we wish him well. And what better way to do that than by inviting you to put your thinking caps on ...

Travelling ...

We're in the air and on the road for a good portion of this morning. We've had an exceptionally busy weekend away from home base where we were able to combine a small amount of leisure time with a large dose of work; whoever said that owning your own business was a cushy number?

But we're homeward bound now, and tuned in to what the world has to say. You'll start to see the results of our pondering around morning tea time! There is something pre-loaded to keep you amused until then.

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All Blacks vs Ireland - 20/11/2010

We're away from our normal abode this morning, and though we WATCHED the All Blacks game, we didn't have any audio out of respect for our hosts!

Accordingly, it's hard to form a clear and concise opinion. Our overall impression was of a scrappy and error-ridden performance, a brave defensive display by the Irish (who seemed to be consistently ahead of the offside line) and a lack of cohesion from the All Blacks.

Feel free to correct us if we are wrong, but we got the impression that Andy Ellis didn't have the best of games, and that the backs were deprived of good ball. The back three looked good when they got the ball, but Carter, Nonu and Smith seemed to struggle.

And when was the last time that the All Blacks scored four tries in a test match, all by forwards? Kieran Reid had another barnstorming match, and has really stamped his mark on the No. 8 position. The scrum went well, the lineout was adequate, but the Irish seemed adept at slowing down the ball at the breakdown.

So that's our view, in a silent nutshell. We have the match at home on MySky, but we doubt that we'll get around to watching it upon our return. We hate to admit it, but we're pretty much rugbied-out!

Mana; a Pyrrhic victory for Phil?

So, Kris Faafoi has won the Mana by-election. No surprises there; a sitting government has NEVER won an electorate from the opposition in a New Zealand by-election. By-elections are traditionally a time when the electorate sends the government a message. The Mana electorate has spoken, and though Kris Faafoi has been elected, it would seem that Mana has bucked the trend and sent the opposition a message!

Kris Faafoi was gifted a majority of 6000 by Winnie Laban. Mana was one of Labour's safest seats. With an election-night majority of just 1080, it's now a marginal, and we have little doubt that Hekia Parat's 2011 campaign will start next week.

This is a Pyrrhic victory for Labour and for Phil Goff; a victory gained with such a high cost that it may ultimately prove fatal to him in a political sense. Sure, there was resentment at the selection of Faafoi against the local LEC's wishes, but that in itself wouldn't have translated into the slashing of Labour's majority. Matt McCarten's candidacy was a non-event with less than 1000 votes.

Labour ran a strong campaign in Mana. Goff used the by-election to launch Labour's rebuttal of National's tax changes. But Phil Goff has made a sad discovery; the electorate isn't listening to him, or to Labour. And with only a year to go until the 2011 election, that's a huge problem; heck yeah!

Pike River; the wait continues

The old saying tells us that no news is good news. At the Pike River coal mine and in Greymouth, we'd suggest that the opposite applies; that the longer there is no news, the less chance there is of the news being good.

Naturally, the major papres are all over this story, and there's no need for us to link to it; if you don't find it, it'll find you. We note that in the Herald on Sunday's lead story this morning, the following appears at the foot:

Reporters: Anna Leask, Kieran Nash, Rebecca Lewis, Leigh van der Stoep, Abby Gillies, Michael Dickison, Jarrod Booker, Joanne Carroll, Claire Harvey, Catherine Masters, Bevan Hurley.

That's right; APN has eleven of its finest on the job to bring you the news as it happens. Doubtless Fairfax is following suit. We didn't watch the TV news last night, but we know that both channels had extended coverage; in TVNZ's case it may have been trying to make up for lost time; the state broadcaster was slow off the mark.

In the meantime we can only hope and pray for a miracle, and we will continue to do that. We hope that, for the sake of those who wait, there is some news before too much longer.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Mana by-election

As we type this, the doors are about to open at polling booths across the Mana electorate. The events at Pike River in the last 15 or so hours have overshadowed Mana, but it's still going to be an interesting contest.

Will Kris Faafoi win, and if so, can he maintain Winnie Laban's majority? What effect will Matt McCarten's hard-left campaigning have on the Labour vote, especially given McCarten's union profile, and the high level of union voters in the electorate? Can Hekia Parata do the unthinkable and the unprecedented, and win a seat from the Opposition in a by-election?

The polls close at 7pm, and a result is expected by 10pm. That seems to be an exceedingly pessimistic expectation, given that polling officers only have one vote to count, and the electorate is relatively small in a geographic sense. We wish all the candidates well, but we certainly hope that somewhere in the next 24 hours there will be a post here entitled Heck Yeah; if nothing else, Hekia Parata had the best campaign slogan!

Updated - Pike River

UPDATE (1.45pm) - There is to be a press conference at 2pm, and it is being reported that John Key will be there. One can only presume that this is going to be an announcement of some significance - stay tuned ...


When we headed off to bed last night, things were pretty confused at the site of the Pike River mine explosion. From media reports we've read this morning, little has changed. Both Stuff and the Herald are reporting that rescuers are waiting for the all-clear before they swing into action, given the fear of gas build-ups in the mine. The Press reports:

Emergency services are getting ready for a rescue bid to be mounted early today for the 27 people missing in the Pike River coal mine after an explosion, as a warning was issued rescue efforts could take days.

Pike River chairman John Dow said early Saturday it was possible the miners could have made it to the mine's safety refuges.

He said even if there was gas in other parts of the mine, as rescuers have been fearing, there could be fresh air in the refuges.

Two men have walked out of the West Coast mine, 50km northeast of Greymouth, where the others are trapped at least 1500 metres underground.

Mining is an inherently dangerous business, and the risk of something going wrong is ever-present. It's reassuring to know that they are well trained mine rescue teams waiting to swing into action, but it must be incredibly frustrating to them that they are being held back until the mine is declared safe to enter. There's no point however in putting further lives at risk.

Our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone involved. We believe in the power of prayer; many of our readers do not. That's fine, but let's save the theological argument for another day. Today nothing is more important than getting the 27 trapped miners back to the surface, and back to their families and friends.

The West Coast is a small and tight-knit community, and this terrible situation is going to be widely felt. The mayor of Greymouth has revealed that one of the trapped men is one of his councillors. In the days that follow, we'll doubtless hear more personal stories, because this is a very personal situation. We hope that the Coasters will be comforted by the thought that many thousands of their fellow Kiwis are with them in spirit; kia kaha; kia maia; kia manawanui; arohanui.

UPDATE: There's a media conference going on right at the moment; more news as soon as it is to hand.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bad, bad news

Breaking bad news from the West Coast ...

Up to 30 miners are trapped in the Pike River Coal Mine on the West Coast after an underground explosion this afternoon.

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee said the blast happened at 3.45pm and the last contact with any of the miners was lost at 4.15pm.

He said mine officials had no idea what caused the blast, or the condition of the miners who were trapped.

A Herald source said there were in fact 36 people, made up of miners and management, who were on a safety tour, trapped in the mine.

Two miners have emerged from a service portal in a separate part of the mine, and are being interviewed by mine managers and emergency services.

The Mayor of Grey District, Tony Kokshoorn, told Radio New Zealand 25 to 30 people were unaccounted for, saying "it's not good".

Police, ambulances and helicopters are at the mine.

There's not a heck of a lot that one can say at a time like this. It's great that two miners have emerged safely, and we can only hope and pray that all of those who are trapped will be freed and returned to the surface safely and soon.

We'll update as further news comes to hand ...

UPDATE: TVNZ is reporting that there has been at least one fatality at Pike River

Does Kris agree with Trevor?

Mana voters go to the polls tomorrow. Before they do, we have a question for Kris Faafoi; does he agree with the post that Trevor Mallard put up on Red Alert this afternoon? For those that would prefer not to go to Red Alert (and we can't blame them for that), it's the post headed:

It reads:

The Education Amendment Bill currently before the house removes the obligation to get a Police check for people who look after babies and young children unsupervised at gyms and mall childcare services.

Labour may have over-regulated but this goes too far.

Tolley promised she wouldn’t do this but has broken her word. She said in the house parents should ask childcare staff if they are pedophiles. And the woman is a Minister.

But you can bet when the first offence occurs she won’t be there to support the child and the parents.

We all know what Trevor Mallard is like. But we reckon that the good voters of Mana deserve to know how Kris Faafoi feels about this latest utterance from one of Labour's most senior MP's.

Come on Kris; are you with Trevor, or agin him?

Hat-tip: Kiwiblog