Pike River gifts still undelivered

By Viv Logie of the Greymouth Star

Families of the 29 victims of the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy have yet to receive gifts donated to them after the disaster. File photo / SNPA
Families of the 29 victims of the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy have yet to receive gifts donated to them after the disaster. File photo / SNPA

Boxes full of gifts, letters of sympathy and artwork sent from around the world to the families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River Mine lie undelivered somewhere in Greymouth.

Many family members spoken to by the Greymouth Star today said they had not received any of the hundreds of cards, emails, drawings by schoolchildren or letters sent to the Grey District Council to hand on to the families.

The council packaged up the gifts and messages into 32 black boxes, each with the name of a mine victim on it, containing, cards and messages from around the country, condolence books from towns throughout New Zealand, pictures drawn by schoolchildren and letters from almost every school in New Zealand.

Council staff delivered the boxes to the Focus Trust in July - along with two carloads of other donated items, including paintings and craft items, and at least six boxes of knitted items for children - in the expectation they would be passed on to the families.

However, neither the boxes nor the other donated items have yet been delivered to any of the Pike River families.

A council spokeswoman said today she had emailed the Focus Trust asking why the boxes had not been delivered, and had not received a reply.

Pike River family members spoken to today said they were "not surprised" at the non-delivery.

They all believed that the trust had taken on a "bit much" with counselling and liaising with the families. Some family members had even offered to help out, but were told repeatedly that the trust had everything under control.

One family member said handmade quilts specially for the families had been given to mothers and children, although she was aware of one young mother who did not get one.

"I'm aware there are some paintings and key rings to be given out, but as yet that has not happened either, but I had no idea of any of this other stuff we should have received - it's very disappointing."

Focus Trust spokeswoman Kathryn Leafe referred any comment about the undelivered donations to Claire Brown, a member of the Welfare Advisory Group that had been set up to help the mine families.

Mrs Brown said the advisory group had received a number of donated goods intended for the families and they were "currently being distributed to the families" to coincide with the first year anniversary.

The group had previously overseen the co-ordination and distribution of goods and services donated to the community and the Pike River families.

She said there had been a number of donations made over recent months, particularly coinciding with the anniversary.

"These are currently being distributed.

"To help maintain donor and recipient privacy, the Welfare Advisory Group's policy is to refrain from any public comment in relation to the details of any gifts."

All of the families spoken to today confirmed they had received nothing in at least three months.

- APNZ

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