Editorial: Contrasting decisions

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2013

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OPINION: Some decisions just seem right.

So right you wonder how difficult they really were in the first place.

Yes, we're talking about the Milford tunnel. And the decision by Conservation Minister Nick Smith to, ultimately, do nothing. To leave things just as they are.

The immediate reaction to which was delight, from absolutely everyone.

Everyone because the tunnel proponents were not immediately available, or willing, to speak. And the tourists, who would ultimately benefit from the much shorter journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound, are faceless. Fly-by-nighters if you will.

They don't have to live with the consequences. And these are OUR national parks.

The tunnel backers have now accepted the inevitable, and apparently will not take it further.

Thank heavens for that. To almost everyone else this was a no-brainer, and good on all those who stood up and said so. There is a feeling here of a victory to the little people over big business, and it is a good feeling.

We should do nothing more often.

On the same day another decision was announced which was far from straightforward.

The police told the Pike River families they would not be prosecuting anyone over the deaths of 29 miners 31 months ago.

They do not think they have enough evidence to convict anyone on manslaughter charges, mainly because they can't prove what caused the explosions.

And neither do they see any benefit in progressing with a lesser criminal nuisance charge, as that is seen as a potential double-up to health and safety charges already laid. Former chief executive Peter Whittall will stand trial next year.

Pike River has highlighted a shortcoming in New Zealand law, that being the lack of a corporate manslaughter charge.

But how would that really work? Who would you lock up?

Is it the board chair who is ultimately responsible, or everyone on the board? Is it the chief executive, or, in this case, the mine's health and safety officer?

It does not seem at all straightforward.

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