Pike River families: PM 'doesn't want to listen'

By Laura Mills of the Greymouth Star

Bernie Monk. File photo / NZPA
Bernie Monk. File photo / NZPA

An angry Pike River Mine families' spokesman Bernie Monk said he was gutted after Prime Minister John Key refused to help with a mine re-entry, less than 24 hours after the mine's owners agreed to an attempt.

Mr Monk said Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder told him on Monday night that he would allow men to enter the main tunnel, if the families arranged it.

Solid Energy, which bought the mine earlier this year, would provide the equipment.

Mr Monk has been pushing for this to happen before redundant Spring Creek miners leave the West Coast, taking their Mines Rescue expertise with them.

Mr Key, on the West Coast today for a National Party fundraiser, met with a few Pike River families in Greymouth but declined to take questions when he emerged from the meeting.

Mr Monk told the waiting media he did not think the Prime Minister was interested in listening to the families' proposal.

A panel of experts advising the families had said it was safe to go back, but Mr Key apparently said his experts did not agree.

"He doesn't want to listen to us. I'm really disappointed," Mr Monk said, describing it as a "token meeting".

Mr Monk said that if the Government - which had previously said money was not an issue - would not help, the families would go further afield.

"I'm really disappointed with the way we were treated."

He said the families would now re-evaluate whether they would stage their own mission to try to recover the remains of the 29 men lost underground in the November 2010 explosion.

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