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Ask Phoebe: Pike River families got about $217,000 from public donations

By Phoebe Falconer

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The fund was kick-started by a $500,000 pledge from Pike River Coal Mine. Photo / NZPA
The fund was kick-started by a $500,000 pledge from Pike River Coal Mine. Photo / NZPA

What happened to the money donated to the families after the Pike River Mine accident? We keep hearing speeches as though the families have not received any money - surely it didn't all go on lawyers? And have they had any help from ACC? Jeanette Cole, Kingsland

Ian Young, the manager of corporate services at Grey District Council, says donations to the Pike River Disaster Relief Trust came to $8,065,727, which earned $259,256 in interest.

Money given to trusts set up by each of the 29 affected families totalled $6,288,617, an average of just under $217,000 per family.

Administration expenses, including legal fees ($115,605), bank fees and insurance accounted for $129,692, or 1.6 per cent of the fund. The legal expenses included up to $3000 per family to set up trusts. A number of ex gratia payments were made to the families of victims, as well as the cost of the first anniversary memorial service and the maintenance in perpetuity of the memorial sites.

A payment of $90,000 was made to the workers' welfare fund, and a donation of $570,000 was made to the Miners Recreation Centre.

The trustees of the fund were Anthony Kokshoorn (mayor of Grey District), Gerard O'Connell (EPMU assistant national secretary), Timothy Mora (Anglican minister of Cobden-Runanga), Lisa Mellish (communications officer at Civil Defence Greymouth), Claire Brown (Pike River Welfare Advisory Group chairwoman), Ian Young (corporate services, Grey District Council) and Mark Lockington (West Coast Community Trust and fund chairman), who replaced Dr John Chang (chief executive, Development West Coast). The trustees received no money from the disaster fund.

The fund was kick-started by a $500,000 pledge from Pike River Coal Mine, matched by a contribution from shareholder New Zealand Oil and Gas. A number of banks, institutions and private individuals also made substantial contributions. Large sums were raised through collection points in supermarkets, banks and the "text to donate" campaign.

The question of ACC compensation is causing some argy-bargy in Parliament. An order for $3.41 million in reparation to the victims' families and two survivors was made in July by Judge Jane Farish, who convicted Pike River Coal on health and safety charges. Finance Minister Bill English said last week that families had already received $5 million from ACC.

- NZ Herald

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