The Pike River Mine controversy took yet another turn today with Parliament's Commerce Committee agreeing to hear from Dame Fiona Kidman on why Solid Energy should be stopped from sealing the mine.
Dame Fiona petitioned for Parliament to note 511 people had signed an online petition calling on Solid Energy to stop sealing the mine and that the remains of the 29 men be brought home if humanly possible.
The Commerce Committee - which oversees Solid Energy - has invited her to speak to her submission on February 16.
Solid Energy will appear the same day, immediately after her, to consider the petition as part of its annual review hearing.
West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said Solid Energy must stop all activity at the mine in the meantime.
"Obviously the committee resolved there has been enough controversy and uncertainty that they should hear the submitters in person on February 16.
"I think it's a huge decision that gives Parliamentary standing to their view that the mine should not be sealed."
The committee was prepared to do something the minister had refused to do - listen to the families and their experts, he said.
"It would be an absolute insult to Parliament were Solid Energy to proceed with the sealing of the mine when notice of this hearing has been decided by the committee and made public."
He said the committee did not have the power to stop the state-owned enterprise from sealing the mine. However, the committee oversaw Solid Energy which would have some explaining to do if it went ahead.
Solid Energy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine, also said the pending select committee hearing meant Solid Energy should stop work in the meantime.
"It gives us a bit of time. And I'm endeavouring to get a meeting with the Prime Minister and I'm pulling out all stops here. I'm going to bring our experts in from the UK... so we can have a face-to-face talk on where we're heading."
The families would foot the bill for the experts to come to New Zealand, Mr Monk said.
He was "over" Solid Energy.
The planned select committee hearing was another message to the company and the Government that a new entity should take over the mine, he said.
Solid Energy had told the families it wasn't going to budge and the families - who were still picketing the mine 24/7 - said likewise.
Workers monitoring the gas levels in the mine were the only ones allowed through the blockade, he said. He applauded West Coast contractors who had stood aside and supported the families.
A civil dispute erupted at the weekend over whether Solid Energy, or the mine families, had the right to continue using the access road to the mine.
Solid Energy said it had legal advice it could continue using the road. The families said that changed nothing and the blockade remained.
- Westport News