Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a journalist based in Auckland.

Pike River families will be 'relieved' by plan - PM

File photo / Simon Baker
File photo / Simon Baker

Families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River blasts will be "relieved'' by the Government's decision on whether to support a plan to re-enter the mine, Prime Minister John Key says.

Cabinet today made its decision on whether to fund a plan for a staged re-entry of the coalmine, where the men's bodies have been entombed since the fatal blasts in November 2010.

The plan was approved last week by the board of Solid Energy and the Government's High Hazards Unit.

Mr Key said families would be briefed on the Cabinet decision before Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges made an announcement tomorrow.

"Whatever the outcome of that decision, yes, I think that they will be relieved that things are another step further along.

"But I would hasten to add I think the situation is still very raw for some of those families, and a very emotional time for them.''

Mr Key had pledged $10 million of Government support for a re-entry plan if it was safe, technically feasible and financially credible.

Ministers would not make any further comment ahead of the family briefing in Greymouth, which would be attended by High Hazards Unit officials including chief mines inspector Tony Forster.

The staged re-entry plan is designed to seal off the ventilation shaft in the mine's main entry tunnel, known as the drift.

The mine will be pumped full of nitrogen to force out any methane gas and allow experts to walk down a 2.3km shaft to a rockfall.

While most of the bodies are believed to be inside the mine's main workings, the families think some men may have been inside the drift when blasts ripped through the mine on November 19, 2010.

- APNZ

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