'Hell no', say Spring Creek wives

By Kate Shuttleworth, Viv Logie of the Greymouth Star

Greymouth woman Linda Neilson, partner, daughter and sister of miners, is going to fight hell for leather in an attempt to get Solid Energy's decision to mothball Spring Creek overturned.

The suggestion she is fighting a losing battle was greeted with anger this morning - the battle has just begun.

"There are families out there who have been let down; everyone is very concerned about what happened yesterday and something needs to be done so we still have a town,'' Ms Neilson said.

"Solid Energy knew the coal price was going to drop, and when they were negotiating coal contracts they should have locked them in at a higher price.''

She is concerned for the families who have just moved to Greymouth to take up jobs at Spring Creek.

Her partner told her just a couple of weeks ago that he would have work for the next 20 to 25 years at Spring Creek.

"I laughed, saying that would take him through to retirement; now look what's happened.''

Ms Neilson said everyone was "stressed'' and the idea of sending workers to Christchurch to help with the rebuild was not the answer.

"That is separating family units, causing more stress; that just doesn't work.

"Everyone is feeling let down, sad and in disbelief that something like this can be done here.

"It's going to affect the whole town; businesses will close and staff levels will have to be adjusted.''

Jo Watson, who moved to Greymouth about eight years ago from Britain with her family, said they did not want to leave.

"We came here as a family and want to stay here as a family. I don't really want Ian (her husband) having to go elsewhere to work.''

Both women, who went to yesterday's meeting with Don Elder, were angry about the way he made the announcement.

Mrs Watson said it was all about him; "he said what a bad day he had had ... well, hello''.

"At the end they (miners) were stunned and it was just quiet; it was awful.''

Meanwhile, miners were emotional after a meeting with Minister of State Owned Enterprises Tony Ryall today saying the minister had made up his mind over their proposal before the meeting began.

Mr Ryall said the Government would not offer a one-off cash injection to support Spring Creek mine.

Spring Creek miner Trevor Bolderson was fighting off tears after the meeting with the minister this afternoon, saying he might be forced to move overseas to get a job.

Mr Bolderson said he wasn't looking forward to driving home and didn't know what he would tell his wife. He didn't know how he would meet his mortgage repayments, and feared losing his home.

"I think it was decided before we walked in. They've been paying lip-service the whole way through,'' he said.

"It's devastating, I can't begin to tell you what it will mean. The coast will be a ghost town.

"I don't think they actually listened, or took on board what we were saying.''

After the meeting Mr Ryall said he had not looked at the proposal put forward by the miners, and the decision had already been made by the board of Solid Energy.

"This has got nothing to do with the potential float of Solid Energy, and everything to do with collapse of international coal prices.

"This is what happens when international coal prices collapse.''

Labour's West Coast MP Damien O'Connor said the miners deserved more consideration from the minister.

"For the minister or for [Solid Energy chief executive officer] Don Elder to say that asset sales were not part of the agenda is disingenuous.

"The documents put out by Don Elder himself internally states that asset sales are part of the objective of the review.''

Mr O'Connor said the miners had worked hard to put forward an alternative.

"They have done everything they can, they worked their butts off to put an alternative mine plan forward, they worked with management and there were huge savings made, but the Government hasn't had time to look at that plan properly.''

- APNZ

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