Remembering Waihi and Pike

The Pike River report released this week showed how little progress in health and safety New Zealand has made since the days of the Waihi mine strike.

My own grandfather was a miner at Waihi. He died when my mother was small and my grandmother said that working in the mine meant long hours and poor conditions.

Discontent with injuries and fatalities in the mines was one of the major causes of the industrial unrest that bubbled over into violence a hundred years ago during the long strike by the miners of Waihi.

Poor ventilation and respiration meant miners health was often terribly compromised after only a few years.  Miners suffered from dust on the lungs.  And then there were the industrial accidents and rockfalls which killed and maimed miners on a regular basis.  Needless to say, pay was also poor.

This weekend just past the Labour History Project and Auckland Labour History Group marked the centenary of the 1912 Waihi strike.

History tells us we should learn from our past mistakes.  The Royal Commission’s report into Pike River shows us we haven’t learned enough in the hundred years since the Waihi industrial action.

Denise

63 thoughts on “Remembering Waihi and Pike

  1. “Most of the debate around mines up until now has been about the effect of a mine on the environment, not about miner safety”
    That’s probably because it was assumed that everyone thinks miner safety is a top priority; whereas some people don’t think our environment is a top priority. It’s apparent now that some people don’t think miner safety is a top priority either..

  2. Greenfly, you’re quick to attack the messenger.
    Not really, Arana. I patiently waited to see whether you had anything worthwhile to say before beginning to question the value of your comments.
    It saves having to construct an argument, huh.
    Nope. My arguments are there, though you don’t seem able to engage with them.
    Why is suggesting encouraging meeting in virtual space “a Tory bill of goods”?
    I didn’t say it was. Attempting to remove the opportunity for people to meet candidates and MPs and talk directly with them, is a Tory strategy.

    You’re against having more virtual meetings because……?
    I didn’t say I was. I’ve had many virtual meetings. They are not so effective as face to face meetings, in my view.
    You support having more virtual meetings….because?
    I don’t support reducing the opportunities for members of the public to meet face to face with candidates or MPs.
    Discussion with you is like hand-feeding a baby bird.

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever heard or read an argument claiming that farming is the source of all problems (though it is the source of a lot).

    How can mining not destroy the environment? Please explain.

    How can mining be sustainable? Regardless of the quantity of resource in the ground, it depletes and reduces in quality. Eventually it becomes uneconomic in financial and energy terms to extract more. Before it stops, of course, it will decline. This is just a natural consequence of living on a finite planet. If you disagree, please explain how mining is sustainable.

  4. Yes. It’s not dissimilar to the hardline argument that farming is the source of all problems, and we should have remained hunter-gatherer.

    I don’t agree that mining destroys the environment. Mostly, it just temporarily disrupts it. It is sustainable, as you seem to be underestimating the supply side. I think the massive benefits of mining to our quality of life outweigh the negatives.

  5. Arana and a couple of others,

    My point is not that mining has not benefited some people (even a lot of people) for some period of time but that, over the long haul, it is not of benefit to humans because it destroys the environment that humans need to survive and live reasonably well (and, of course, the environment needed by all species). It also isn’t sustainable, so we should really get used to the idea that it is going away (at least at anything like the scale we’ve needed to maintain the kind of societies we have or are striving for).

    It’s really not that hard to understand, is it?

  6. Greenfly, you’re quick to attack the messenger. It saves having to construct an argument, huh. Why is suggesting encouraging meeting in virtual space “a Tory bill of goods”?

    You’re against having more virtual meetings because……?
    You support having more virtual meetings….because?

  7. Arana – I hate to burst your bubble, but not all Greens are young enough to have embraced the digital age. A virtual meeting would still involve travel for some of us, either to bring the meeting to them or for them to find a place where the access is provided, along with someone with enough skills AND BANDWIDTH to handle it. The only thing this government has half right is the need to get us broadbanded. Greens work from the ground up. Not so much from the top down. We have local meetings and local organization.

    There’s no fear of you bursting my bubble, BJ. I do not assume all Greens are young, so please stop making things up.

    Home broadband adoption rates are high, particularly among the politically interested. Virtual meetings are not the answer to every meeting problem, just as a public meeting isn’t the answer to every meeting problem. For example, those with kids find it hard to attend public meetings due to childcare requirements. Others find it easier to just log on rather than travel.

    Virtual spaces are the future of democracy. I would expect the Green Party, of all people, to embrace them. It’s a shame some of their supporters have their heads still jammed in 1893 – although not unsurprising.

  8. I’m not at all surprised that you want to see an end to meetings where the public can talk face to face with their prospective leaders, Arana.

    Where did I say I wanted to see an end to face-to-face meetings? Stop making things up.

    Just because we could use more virtual spaces (which would likely increase participation) does not mean an end to all face to face meetings.

  9. So, Arana – not a microwave, but a sales marketer who works on-line.
    Shouldn’t you be…working?
    None of my business, of course, and I don’t really care what you do but it’s clear that you are marketing here too, promoting the Tory line of goods and services. We’re not buying. I think you are a poor salesperson (sorry), you have nothing fresh to say at all and your “plays” are transparent.

  10. Arana – I hate to burst your bubble, but not all Greens are young enough to have embraced the digital age. A virtual meeting would still involve travel for some of us, either to bring the meeting to them or for them to find a place where the access is provided, along with someone with enough skills AND BANDWIDTH to handle it. The only thing this government has half right is the need to get us broadbanded. Greens work from the ground up. Not so much from the top down. We have local meetings and local organization.

  11. I’m not at all surprised that you want to see an end to meetings where the public can talk face to face with their prospective leaders, Arana.
    You exhibit a strong authoritarian streak and authoritarians don’t like to soil themselves by mixing with the unwashed.
    Best to have those Great Leaders televised, aye! We could even “talk” with them on-line! Exciting!
    I’m more and more convinced now, that you are a microwave.

  12. You expect Gareth Hughes to Skype his comments to a candidates meeting, for example, while those from other parties front-up in person on the stage.

    Asking the wrong questions, aren’t you? Why are a lot of these meetings in physical space, not virtual space? Tradition? If we encouraged more virtual meetings, more people might “turn up”. They’d certainly be more interactive.

    Perhaps that’s the last thing a politician wants….

  13. It’s a weak position if you assume, first and foremost, that it’s a politicians job to listen to and influence the electorate in line with their party’s stated ideology. As any sales person will tell you, this task requires a great deal of personal contact to be effective.

    Hmmm…..a lot of assumption. Will they really be less effective if they cut air travel in half? My job involves sales, consulting and marketing, and we do a lot of it online. We’ve cut travel down to a bare minimum. Nothing to do with being green, more to do with cost savings, but the side-effect is a more green planet.

    On that note, the rest of us have to live in the city where we work, but not politicians. Many fly “home” for the weekend, or every second weekend.

  14. Bing?

    You’re a microwave, Arana?

    I suspected, “troll”, but nothing so programmable and soul-less as that!

    You expect Gareth Hughes to Skype his comments to a candidates meeting, for example, while those from other parties front-up in person on the stage.
    What tripe.

    I tire of your empty arguments.

  15. The biggest cost is to moral authority. Some Green MPs lecturing others about their fossil fuel is somewhat undermined by their own actions.

    I don’t buy the implied hypocrisy line, Arana.

    It’s a weak position if you assume, first and foremost, that it’s a politicians job to listen to and influence the electorate in line with their party’s stated ideology. As any sales person will tell you, this task requires a great deal of personal contact to be effective.

    We don’t ask any other citizen to completely excise every action from their life that might trigger a degree of cognitive dissonance. Why do we expect it from politicians?

    If Hughes was actively promoting an agenda but was also privately benefiting from completely the opposite state of affairs, then that is hypocrisy and should be called out.

    Taking a plane to spread the message about oil dependence doesn’t really cross that threshold. Owning shares in an oil company would.

  16. I can understand the choice of face-to-face meetings as opposed to Skype. However, the cost of that choice is added pollution.

    The biggest cost is to moral authority. Some Green MPs lecturing others about their fossil fuel is somewhat undermined by their own actions.

  17. Hunters, injured while hunting, get repaired in hospitals, then return to the hunt.Hospitals are not beneficial for deer.

    Bing! You’re saying hospitals are beneficial to humans, in this case a hunter. A hospital is not possible without mining.

    Illustrating, once again, how silly Tony’s argument is….

  18. You illustrate my point perfectly, thanks, Arana.
    “Green MPs’ would walk to meetings up and down the country if they had any integrity!”What cr*p.

    Strawman. I didn’t say “walk”, I say “Skype”. It’s a valid alternative to unnecessary travel. My business uses it a lot – because it means less travel for meetings.

    Hughes travels to a lot of meetings, up and down the country. He’s made his choice, even when there are valid alternatives.

  19. Hunters, injured while hunting, get repaired in hospitals, then return to the hunt.
    Hospitals are not beneficial for deer.

  20. “Reminds me of Gareth Hughes.”

    You illustrate my point perfectly, thanks, Arana.
    “Green MPs’ would walk to meetings up and down the country if they had any integrity!”
    What cr*p.
    “National Party MPs who support the deployment of New Zealand troops to Afghanistan, should sign up and head over there!”
    Good, aye!

  21. Yours is the same stupid illogic that bleats to Green Party MPs, “How can you come to this meeting and complain about climate change, when you came by car!!”. Stupid, shallow argument,when there is no alternative

    Reminds me of Gareth Hughes. Seems to like to fly a lot, even when the Skype option is available. It’s a valid alternative, uses less fossil fuel, but perhaps not quite like being there.

    Priorities, eh. Actions speak volumes.

  22. “The contradiction in your stance is you use the things you say aren’t a benefit.
    This makes no sense, and undermines your position.”

    Arana, yours is a rubbish argument. New Zealanders have no choice but to use the products of mining. This does not preclude them from being critical of it. Yours is the same stupid illogic that bleats to Green Party MPs, “How can you come to this meeting and complain about climate change, when you came by car!!”. Stupid, shallow argument, when there is no alternative, but there is a wider problem that can only be addressed by changing public opinion. Your mission here seems to be the curtailing of thinking about the wider issues, by needling at the narrow. It’s an old, discredited Tory trick. Are you and old, discredited Tory? I suspect so.

  23. ““We” decide what is a benefit to us. If the products of mines Coca-cola didn’t offer us a perceived benefit, we wouldn’t use it.”

  24. “but many safer options were discounted due to environmental concerns i.e Schedule 4 locations”

    Discounted by legislation, not by the wishes of environmentalists, as you imply.
    Don’t you respect the law, Arana?

  25. I’m not denying any of that but, in hindsight, I don’t think mining has been an overall benefit to humans.

    I disagree, and most people would, too.

    “We” decide what is a benefit to us. If the products of mines didn’t offer us a perceived benefit, we wouldn’t use them. “You” may consider they aren’t a benefit, yet your usage of same indicates otherwise.

    The contradiction in your stance is you use the things you say aren’t a benefit.
    This makes no sense, and undermines your position.

  26. Yes Arana, the open Cast is safer for Coal but was not an option for Pike River

    I never said it was an option for Pike River.

    Pike River was one mining option. There were many options, in other locations, but many safer options were discounted due to environmental concerns i.e Schedule 4 locations.

    Most of the debate around mines up until now has been about the effect of a mine on the environment, not about miner safety.

  27. I’ll admit I’m struggling to see your point at all, Tony.
    Unless you want to go back to a per Bronze Age existence, your premise makes no logical sense.

    By all means, negate 5000 years of human cultural evolution as having no benefits to mankind by whatever tortuous, nonsensicle, manichaen rationale you like. Just don’t expect anyone to take your position seriously in the absence of a coherent arguement.

  28. Yes Arana, the open Cast is safer for Coal but was not an option for Pike River due to the overburden AFAIK, and there is really no SAFE way to actually mine and burn coal because of the effect on climate. That cost has to be pushed into the use of the stuff as fuel, which would make any sort of coal mine unprofitable.

  29. Gregor,

    That none of us would be alive without mining is not relevant to the point I was making. Actually, you said that “humanity” has benefited enormously but the only benefit you see is that some of those humans wouldn’t be alive without mining. This isn’t true of all humans, of course, and doesn’t factor in the damage that has been done, and continues to be done, by mining. It would be interesting to ask the question again in a hundred years time: has mining benefited humankind?

  30. Arana,

    That’s nonsensical reasoning. I’m capable of figuring out the long term benefits, or otherwise, of mining without needing to demonstrate it to you by living as though there had never been mining. There has been mining; it has been part and parcel of my upbringing and development. The supposed benefits are advertised to me each day. I’ve been able to see through all that and determine that mining has caused possibly irreparable damage to the only environment we’ve got. The fact that I’m using a computer is irrelevant to that.

    Your determination that life would be grim is based on how you view the future if mining disappeared now, having wrought that irreparable damage but still being an essential part in how you live now. Of course it would be difficult to remove it and that would cause a lot of misery. I’m not denying any of that but, in hindsight, I don’t think mining has been an overall benefit to humans. That’s the lesson we haven’t learned. If we had, we’d try to figure out a way to gradually remove that activity or at least reduce its level to something that may be sustainable or close to sustainable (which may be the best we can hope for, given where we are now).

  31. It really depends on how you define “benefit”. Are you saying humans could never have been happy until they started to extract ores in quantity?

    Life would be grim.

    But if you’re serious, then lead by example. Go and live a life without the products of mines. If people like the results, they may join you.

    I’m guessing you won’t, and neither will they.

  32. No – I’m saying probably none of us would be alive without the benefits of mining to enjoy our happiness.

  33. Gregor,

    It really depends on how you define “benefit”. Are you saying humans could never have been happy until they started to extract ores in quantity?

    Putting “massively” in all capitals doesn’t make the argument.

  34. Arana,

    The trouble is that I’m not happy to use the products of mining. However, even if I was, that is no argument that mining is good for us.

  35. Gregor,

    if H&S standards used in the rest of the developed world are followed [mining is a relatively safe occupation]

    True. The problem is that those standards aren’t always followed. Have you noticed that humans get in the way, with these things? If only they could act like perfectly programmed robots, there would never be a problem with any occupation. Human error will always play a role. The question is whether the activity is something that should really be undertaken, given the risks (both to the workers and to the environment).

  36. The trouble is Tony, overall humanity has benefited MASSIVELY from mining resource exploitation over millennia.

    So I’m pretty sure, Arana, dbuckley, bjchip and others aren’t disputing that there are costs to mining and that in future, there might be better alternatives, but merely pointing out your assertion that “ultimately, nothing good comes from mining” is patently false.

  37. Are you trying to put forward some sort of argument?

    Yes. I am trying to put forward some sort of argument. The type of argument that highlights the fact that you’re happy to use the products of mines, thus increasing demand, whilst arguing against them, unless they meet some Utopian criteria.

  38. We exploit, or we die. Humanity would be a grim existence indeed if it wasn’t for mining.

    Mining isn’t “ruining” our environment. The environment will outlive humans. Mining is sustainable – this is one massive planet. We’ve barely scratched the surface. It may cause temporary problems, of course, but this is not a reason to heavily restrict mining, as it must be weighed against the standard of existence mining provides us.

  39. Arana,

    Yes. Put down your cellphone. Your tools. And, ironically, your computer.

    Are you trying to put forward some sort of argument? If so, this certainly isn’t it. The fact that I have a cellphone or some tools doesn’t mean that overall we’ve benefitted from mining and certainly doesn’t mean that the future (for us and our kids) looks rosy because of it.

  40. “Troll” seems to be one of those words used when someone disagrees with the party line.

    Sure, if you really did disagree from an arguement standpoint.

    But your tone in this comment and others, indicates that in this case you are employing a cheap rhetorical device in the form of a perfect solution / false dilemma fallacy.

    Hence my comment.

  41. dbuckley,

    I’m not trying to rewrite history. You can’t really separate the good from the bad, like you want to. If mining is ruining our environment, it doesn’t really matter that we got some cool stuff from it, nor does it matter that the planet has got where it is today (whatever that means) by mining. Actually, on that last point, you’re quite right, it certainly has got to the brink of catastrophe through mining of various sorts. I don’t think that’s really a good thing.

  42. bj,

    Just because you happen to like something doesn’t make it a good thing to do. I’d back up a bit to say that if there is no, or sustainable, environmental damage from mining, then maybe that makes sense, if it provides something that is useful. If it isn’t sustainable mining, then nothing good can come of it – besides being dangerous to humans, it is dangerous to the rest of nature (which is additionally dangerous to humans). So you can have your steel utensils and aluminium bicycle frames if they can be made sustainably.

    I seriously doubt that, on a scale that fits with our modern society, anything good can come of mining.

  43. Nice concern troll, Arana.

    “Troll” seems to be one of those words used when someone disagrees with the party line.

    It’s healthy to disagree. Seth Godin puts it well:

    “The art of staying successful is in being open to having the argument. Great organizations fail precisely because they refuse to do this”.

  44. Never said it was, but it WAS an option elsewhere.

    The reason open caste didn’t happen elsewhere? Environmental reasons.

  45. Open cast was not an option for Pike as the seam was so deep (150-200m) and narrow that the cost of removing so much rock made it uneconomic.

    It would’ve cost even more then monitoring methane.

  46. seems to point to PROFITS FIRST & health & safety further down the list

    Yeah, a lot of people say that, but I don’t think its quite right: I think the collective mindset of all involved was survival of the mine first, and everything else secondary.

    Ultimately, of course, it didn’t work out. There is a lesson there.

  47. Putting health and safety first means open caste mining. These types of mines are much safer than underground mines.

    Nice concern troll, Arana.

    Putting health and safety first means building single story structures. These types of buildings are much safer than taller ones.

    Oddly, if H&S standards used in the rest of the developed world are followed, both underground mining and and construction are relatively safe occupations.

  48. River TRAGEDY seems to point to PROFITS FIRST & health & safety further down the list ! SHAME

    Putting health and safety first means open caste mining. These types of mines are much safer than underground mines.

  49. Unfortunately in this modern world, mining is a ‘necessary evil’ for many things we take for granted.. BUT the real issue here is Health & Safety.. the more that comes out about the Pike River TRAGEDY seems to point to PROFITS FIRST & health & safety further down the list ! SHAME

    Kia-ora Denise

  50. Yes. Put down your cellphone. Your tools. And, ironically, your computer.

    You’d better give up eating as well, Tony.

  51. I think most Frogbloggers know that I am generally against ad hominim attacks, and that to make such an attack is generally a good sign one has lost the argument.

    I’m now going to prove that every good rule has an exception.

    On the radio the other day I heard an item by some business related person who said, with a straight face, that New Zealand has too much health and safety regulation and that it was an obstacle to business.

    I wish I knew who this fuckwit was, as clearly he is sufficiently insular to have not heard the furure around the Pike River mine Royal Comission reports, and particularly the rates at which our businesses are killing people compared to those in other peer ountries. I wish I knew who it was as I’d like to name him. A person posessing such an egregious quantity of stupidity (and indeed, lack of respect for the lives of others, for that is what he was spewing about) deserves naming.

  52. Yes, we haven’t learned that, ultimately, nothing good comes from mining. It needs to stop.

    Yes. Put down your cellphone. Your tools. And, ironically, your computer.

  53. ultimately, nothing good comes from mining

    Ultimately, as a planet, we are where we are today because of mining. Without mining I would not be writing this, and as a planet we would still be where we were prior to the industrial revolution.

    Pretty much everything, good and bad, for the last century plus is as a result of mining.

    It is true we are now a more enlightened species, and we now know better, and should not be digging out coal for energy at the rate we continue so to do, but it is unreasonable to try and rewrite history.

  54. Had to think about that one for a bit Tony…. could we back up to nothing good comes of mining for energy?

    I happen to like to be able to use steel utensils and aluminium bicycle frames. Recycling those materials works wonders for the amount of stuff being pulled out of the ground too… can’t really recycle an energy resource the same way ;-)

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