Prime Minister John Key today fronted an at times angry group of Pike River Mine families in Greymouth to apologise - and pledge funding of about $10 million to recover the main tunnel.

Mr Key said afterwards it was important to apologise face to face on behalf of the Government, but he stuck to his view that recovering the 29 bodies from the main workings of the mine remained unlikely.

Most families stayed until the end but some left early, with Anna Osborne saying she did not even want an apology: "It's far too late, two years down the track.''

She attended the meeting to stress the need to bring home the men, and said Mr Key told them money would not be an issue when it came to recovering the main tunnel (drift).


Lawrie Drew, who also left early, said everyone was at a stalemate, with the Government advisers saying one thing and the families' advisers another.

"It's the same merry-go-round.''

Mr Key acknowledged the families had been frustrated by his message that a body recovery remained unlikely. He stressed to journalists that the Royal Commission itself cautioned against such a bid.

He did not want to leave the families with false hope, he said.

However, he said the Government would fund the drift recovery, and noting that the figure of $10m had been suggested.

In his letter to families, delivered last week, Mr Key said he regretted "deeply'' the lives lost and the suffering caused.

He said the Royal Commission's report painted a disturbing picture of corporate and regulatory failure.

"On behalf of the Government, I want to reiterate my apology to the families, friends and loved ones of the deceased men for the role this lack of regulatory effectiveness played in the tragedy.''

But he also said the mine's new owner, Solid Energy, remained of the view that re-entry further into the mine was too risky.

Mr Key said Bruce Parkes, a senior manager at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was the new liaison between the families and Government.