Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Families hopeful but chances slim

Spokesman says minister's reservations about $7.2m Pike River re-entry plan unfair and misinformed.

At least some Pike River families are clinging to hopes that a $7.2 million government-funded plan to re-enter the mine will return the bodies of their loved ones killed in the 2010 disaster.

That hope was maintained in spite of Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges saying the chances of recovering any remains are slim.

Mr Bridges yesterday confirmed the Government would fund the plan which is expected to take months and involves entering the mine drift or tunnel leading up to a rock fall which blocks off the main mine workings.

However the chances of finding any remains between the entrance and the rockfall were slim.

"There is a possibility, and the Mines Rescue Trust ... will of course be ready to deal with that."

As far as the mine beyond the rockfall "we do know - there's been fires, there's been floods, there's been explosions so it has been and probably still is a very unstable environment.

That makes me personally sceptical about going further than the rockfall."

Some expert advice is that any remains in the mine are likely to lie beyond the rockfall.

A graphic detailing the plan to re-enter the mine.
A graphic detailing the plan to re-enter the mine.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday underlined the fact that chances of reaching the main workings were remote. "I remain very much of the view on the advice I've received that it's very unlikely that the High Hazards Unit or others would deem it to be safe."

A spokesman for some of the families, Bernie Monk, said many of those he was in contact with were thankful the Government was backing the plan the families had been pushing for months.

"It's a big step, it was good to see smiles on the women's faces for once instead of tears."

However he and others remained hopeful the recovery effort would find the remains of their loved ones in the main drift and he said Mr Bridges' comments about that prospect were unfair.

"I don't agree with them. It's all on hearsay, no one knows until we get down there."

He also took issue with Mr Key and Mr Bridges' comments about entering the main workings.

"How can they say that until we get down there? I think that's a very unfair comment as well ... I think they've been poorly advised.

"We appreciate what they've done so far but they can't make these comments unless we get down there."

West Coast-based Green Party MP Kevin Hague said the Government's announcement yesterday was "very good news for the West Coast" that people had been waiting for.

Labour West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said the families had been tormented by the knowledge a recovery mission was possible until yesterday's decision.

- APNZ

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