Govt turns down Pike River request

By Hayden Donnell, Newstalk ZB, NZPA

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Mining families should have been allowed to see much earlier the evidence of the first blast's ferocity. Photo / Supplied
Mining families should have been allowed to see much earlier the evidence of the first blast's ferocity. Photo / Supplied

The Government is unlikely to pay the legal bill run up by receivers for Pike River Coal during the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy at the company's mine, Prime Minister John Key says.

Mr Key this afternoon claimed receivers had the resources to pay the multi-million dollar legal bill they are expected to incur during the inquiry into the explosion which killed 29 Pike River miners.

Pike River Coal had $10.9 million before it went into receivership and had only spent $5 to $6 million of that money, he said.

"If they want to fund representation, they can. The company has got the reserves to pay its own legal bill if it wants to."

Mr Key said it was "disappointing" the Pike River Coal receivers had asked the Government for aid.

The Government had funded legal representation for the families of the 29 miners who died at the Pike River mine, but the company had enough to pay its own costs, he said.

He did not think the Government was likely to change its view on contributing to the receivers' costs.

Stacey Shortall, the lawyer representing the mine owners - which is now in receivership - yesterday said the company did not have the financial resources to fully participate in the inquiry into the explosion which killed 29 miners at Pike River.

It could not provide witness briefs, compilations of documents and other requirements ahead of its directors and staff giving evidence, she said.

While most Government assistance go towards legal fees, wages for company employees such as chief executive Peter Whittall were an ongoing cost, receiver John Fisk said earlier.

He said his team had written to Attorney-General Chris Finlayson asking for Government assistance.

He said the duty of receivers to repay Pike River Coal's secured creditors was coming into conflict with paying for demands by the Royal Commission.

He was concerned employees would be lost without Government help to pay them.

"The worst case scenario is that we end up in a situation where Pike River has no employees at all. We can hold them here against their will. Their assistance would be lost."

He acknowledged there could be concern about taxpayers contributing to funding for the company, but said it was necessary to determine the cause of the explosion at Pike River.

Meanwhile, the families of the 29 dead miners want Mines Rescue to come forward and say whether they believe they can enter the mine.

Their lawyers this afternoon released a statement saying the families have been told by several sources that Mines Rescue "can go in".

They want a clear statement from Mines Rescue on the feasibility of re-entry.

- NZ Herald

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