The Pike River Mine blockade grew to 40 protesters this morning, joined by New Zealand author Dame Fiona Kidman yesterday.
On day 18, numbers at the road block on the access road grew considerably, along with national media interest as mine disaster family members and supporters turned up the heat on Solid Energy and the Government to reopen the mine drift for one last look for bodies before it is finally sealed.
Solid Energy officials told the families this week in a meeting the families described as "disastrous" that they were forging ahead with the sealing of the portal, regardless.
Dame Fiona said she and her husband Ian had flown down from Wellington to support the families and friends in their efforts to disrupt the sealing work.
Protesters were watched by 10 police officers at the mine access gate this morning to ensure the Solid Energy and Geotech staff and vehicles were able to pass safely through the cordon to reach the mine site, behind Atarau.
Dame Fiona said she was proud to stand along side the families and friends of the 29 men who lost their lives in the mine explosion.
"We are fellow New Zealanders and we thought we would come and stand in line. Ian and I flew down from Wellington yesterday to be here rather than sit in front of the telly feeling sorry.
"This is something that is touching everyone's hearts. You people here have been waiting for six years now and it's about keeping the message going. I have one or two messages for Mr Key," Dame Fiona said.
The picketers are continuing to target contractors working on the sealing, as well as MPs and Prime Minister John Key.
Protesters today discussed blocking the road to stop Geotech contractors from returning home after their sealing work this afternoon, but that was later quashed.
"There were rumours that families and friends would be stopping the contractors getting out from here when they finish work," said Dean Dunbar, whose 16-year-old son Joseph was among the 29 mine victims.
"We are not going to stop these guys from going home to their families. It is not a level we are going to stoop down to. They can go home after their working day - our men weren't allowed to come home - but under no circumstances would we stop these men. Stopping the guys going to work is another story," Mr Dunbar said.
Another family member, Bernie Monk, said the Government was covering up a crime scene by not allowing Mines Rescue individuals inside the drift.
"There's absolutely no need to pour 30m of concrete in there. It feels like they're just doing it because they want this whole thing to go away," Mr Monk said from the blockade.
"The families believe it is safe to enter and remove evidence but Government want to cover it up. They broke the promises of getting our men out and now they want to cover up evidence ... cover up a crime scene."
- Greymouth Star