Not Black and White

Letter to Herald on Sunday, published 4 September 2011

Keywords:  Political Economy & History;

Debrioh Coddington said I blamed ‘Rogernomics for Pike River’s 29 miner deaths’. (Herald on Sunday, 28 August) I did not and have not. I await the outcome of the Royal Commission which is far more expert and informed than I am. It may be relevant to mention, though, that the official enquiry into the tragedy at Cave Creek, in which 14 young people died and others sustained severe injuries, concluded ‘I am left with the overwhelming impression that the many people affected were all let down by the faults in the process of government departmental reforms.’

Ms Coddington says that I said the government was ‘too hands-off’. I did not use the phrase. It was the Department of Labour’s head of health and safety policy, who ‘agreed the department had taken a hands-off attitude to the detail of mine safety – “And were now thinking that actually we were too hands-off.”’ The Department has since established a better resourced High Hazards Unit.

Ms Coddington paid little attention to my main contribution which focussed on the leaky homes disaster and the lessons we can learn from it. She seems obsessed with the fact that in 1985 the ‘Post Office stockpiled 2000 spare desks and chairs’, a trivial mistake compared to an estimated 110,000 leaky homes (plus public and commercial buildings), not to mention the extraordinary psychological and financial stress to all those families. (And, yes, Ms Coddington, sadly there has been at least one suicide which may be attributed to that stress.)

Ms Coddington presents the black and white world of adolescence: them and us, Muldoon and Douglas. It is a world of extremes. Readers may take comfort that we are trying to find solutions and do not need to pursue either Rob Muldoon’s or Roger Douglas’s extreme nostrums.


Blame Rogernomics then let Nanny make it better

Deborah Coddington

Herald on Sunday Aug 28, 2011

Why bother with inquiries into disasters when, say noted economists Brian Easton and Geoff Bertram, everything is Roger Douglas’ fault: “Pike River, leaky homes, finance companies – costly in both money and lives – is seen as the belated price New Zealand is paying for chucking away its rulebooks in the late 1980s.”

Easton blames Rogernomics for Pike River’s 29 miner deaths and, furthermore, suicides by owners of leaky homes.

Why? Because Sir Roger’s Government was “too hands-off” with regulations in these areas, Easton said last week.


But Easton and Bertram are quite right. All this choice and freedom is killing us. We should repair to Nanny Muldoon’s policies with haste.


In 1985 the state-owned Post Office stockpiled 2000 spare desks and chairs, and a two-year supply of dial phones nobody wanted. Before you got a new phone you had to prove the one you had was beyond repair – but that was okay because nobody died and the phones didn’t leak.