Monday, March 12, 2012

COAL AND THE COAST - a reflection on the Pike River Disaster

New book examines mining tragedy

The first book triggered by the Pike River Mine disaster, which killed 29 men, has been published in an account that examines the past, present and future of mining on the West Coast.

Coal and the Coast: A reflection on the Pike River disaster, published by Canterbury University Press, is the work of Blackball writer Paul Maunder, who was among the first emergency responders to reach the mine within minutes of the initial explosion on 19 November 2010.

Maunder, who is an ambulance volunteer, kept a diary in the days after the event and, since then, has been talking to locals and reflecting on the issues involved, particularly on the implications the disaster may have for the Coast and the future of coalmining in the region.

“The Pike River disaster was intensely felt by everyone who lives in this community - everyone here knows someone in that mine or someone who was affected by what happened – so it was an event that resonated strongly, and still does to this day. I felt duty bound as a locally-based writer to comprehend this event.”

Maunder said Coal and the Coast puts the disaster into context by looking at the history of coalmining on the Coast, examining its economic structure as an industry and the early workers whose actions helped trigger historical changes in labour relations.

Through the book Maunder also considers the changes caused by the closure of many mines in the 1960s and the betrayals people on the Coast feel they have experienced since those closures. Ongoing issues around worker safety and the economic and legislative changes needed to ensure this are explored, as is the role of New Zealand-produced coal in climate change and how sustainability issues are likely to play out on the Coast.

Coal and the Coast, which includes the diary Maunder wrote as the disaster unfolded, also looks at the modern miner – what drives them to work underground and, if they’re newcomers, why have they moved to the Coast? And are the miners of today of the same mettle as their predecessors?

Maunder said he wanted to honour the Coast’s miners as well as get people thinking about what will happen once the coal runs out.
“I believe the Coast has a strong future after mining but we need to think about how this future will look, and we need to start thinking about it now.”

About the author
Maunder recently completed a PhD at the University of Canterbury and has had a lengthy career in film and theatre. He is best known for his work with the experimental theatre group Amamus, for his 1973 television drama Gone up North for Awhile, for his 1979 film of the Albert Wendt novel Sons For the Return Home, and his 1983 play Hemi, about the life of poet James K Baxter. He has worked in mainstream theatre, most recently writing and directing Death (and love) in Gaza, as well as in community theatre devising and scripting many plays.
Book Launch
Coal and the Coast was launched in Greymouth on 9 March by Mayor
Tony Kokshoorn at the Left Bank Art Gallery. It will also be launched in Christchurch at 5.30pm on 21 March at the University Bookshop at the University of Canterbury.

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