Pike director open to paying families

Stuart Nattrass.
Stuart Nattrass.

One of the Pike River Mine directors has indicated there is a possibility he will contribute to the $3.41 million reparation cost the company was ordered to pay to families of the men who died in the mine three years ago.

But, despite a judge suggesting shareholders also contribute to the cost, the company's largest secured shareholder says chances of it funding the compensation was unlikely.

Pike River was on Friday sentenced in the Greymouth District Court for health and safety failings that led to the deaths of 29 miners in November 2010.

Judge Jane Farish ordered Pike River Coal to pay a total of $3.41 million in reparation - $110,000 for the family of each victim and survivors Russell Smith and Daniel Rockhouse.

She also fined the company a total of $760,000 over nine charges.

Pike River Coal is in receivership and indicated during sentencing that it had only enough money to pay $5000 to each family.

The directors at the time of the tragedy were John Dow, Stuart Nattrass, Raymond Meyer, Roy Radford, Arun Jagatramka, Dipak Agarwalla, Surendra Sinha and Sanjay Loyalka. None were charged over the tragedy.

Judge Farish blasted the directors and the company's shareholders for not volunteering to pay any of the compensation - noting the directors had "significant insurance".

Mr Nattrass said it was the company that had been found at fault.

He said it was "possible" some of the directors would contribute to the compensation for the families.

Mr Nattrass said he hadn't given the idea "any real thought", but it was possible he would put his mind to it.

"It's been hard on everybody that's been involved in this business, not just those who have lost family," he said.

Mr Dow said he had thought about what the judge had to say.

"But I'm not going to comment on that at the moment - I haven't seen the specifics of what she said, I've only seen what's been reported.

"I don't understand what the justification for her making those comments was."

Mr Agarwalla is currently in India and he said he could not comment on the judge's comments until he had seen the court ruling.

He would not say if he would consider contributing to the compensation.

The other directors could be contacted.

NZ Oil and Gas chief executive Andrew Knight said he was baffled his company had been targeted by Judge Farish to put up money for the families.

"I need to go through the process of reading the judgement and try to understand the judge's logic as to why she believed it was appropriate for a minority shareholder of a publicly listed company to be fronting up."

The company was the largest secured shareholder, but it only owned 24.9 per cent of the shares, he said.

Mr Knight said Judge Farish appeared to be unaware that immediately after the explosion, NZ Oil and Gas gave Pike River $25 million to keep aspects of the company running and to pay staff wages.

"All the employees were paid salaries they were owed, all the employees were paid additional payments."

Money also went to the tunnel recovery process, creditors and the Families' Trust fund, Mr Knight said.

There would be a "mixed response" from shareholders about whether to put forward money, he said.

"I understand why the judge is frustrated, because she wants reparations paid and the company was bankrupt."

He said a final decision had not been made on whether to contribute to the reparations, but it was "unlikely" the company would put in more money.

- APNZ

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