By Kim Choe with NZN
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has resigned from her portfolio following the release of the Royal Commission’s damning report into the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy.
In a statement, Ms Wilkinson said she felt it was the “right and honourable thing to do”.
“The Pike River Mine tragedy of 19 November 2010 happened on my watch as Minister of Labour,” she said.
“While reports from the former Department of Labour did not advise me of concerns about their ability to administer the health and safety legislation, 29 men lost their lives in this tragedy.”
Prime Minister John Key has accepted Ms Wilkinson’s resignation, but says “successive governments” were to blame for eroding the influence and reach of mines inspectors.
The National government of 1992 disestablished check inspectors in mines and relaxed other rules, which Labour and the Greens have repeatedly criticised since the Pike River disaster.
While the 1992 law change placed primary responsibility for health and safety on employers, the Department of Labour saw that as "somehow reducing its responsibility to actively administer the legislation," says Mr Key.
"The Royal Commission found the Department of Labour itself did not have the focus, capacity or strategies to ensure Pike was meeting its legal responsibilities under health and safety laws," says Mr Key.
Chris Finlayson has been appointed Acting Labour Minister in Ms Wilkinson’s place.
Mr Finlayson has welcomed the public release of the Royal Commission report, and says the Government broadly accepts all 16 of the report’s recommendations.
“I believe it is our duty to the 29 miners who died and their families to oversee the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations,” Mr Finlayson says.
“Officials at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have been instructed to undertake the work in the labour area and provide advice to Cabinet.”
Ms Wilkinson retains her conservation, food safety, and associate immigration portfolios.
3 News / NZN