A Christmas card sent to one of the dead workers in the Pike River mine from Prime Minister John Key and his wife has been labelled "really distasteful" by the man's widow.

The card was addressed to Milton Osborne, 54, who was a Grey District councillor when he died while working in the mine in November last year.

It was discovered by his widow Anna Osborne, who has since taken over the councillor role left vacant by her husband's death, in correspondence collected for her by the council.

The card had a picture of Mr Key and his wife Bronagh on it, with a generic Christmas greeting to Mr Osborne in his role as a councillor, signed in blue ink by Mr Key.


"I found it really distasteful. I'm not happy about it at all," Mrs Osborne told the Herald.

"It's distressing to get a Christmas card wishing him all the best for the festive season when he's down that bloody shithole (in the mine) where he is at the moment. That really hurts."

"I'd taken my husband's seat on council in March, so if it was one of those things that every councillor in New Zealand receives, it should have been addressed to me, not my late husband, for a start."

"To me, the money would have better spent - rather than circulating all these Christmas cards to councillors - to make a deposit to the recovery fund of our guys."

Mrs Osborne accepted a mistake had been made "but Milton's name has been out there for 13 bloody months now - so there's absolutely no excuse".

She said her family would not even be celebrating Christmas with her husband's remains still stuck in the mine. She would be making contact with Mr Key's office to let him know her feelings.

"He's so out of touch with what's going on, it's ridiculous."

A spokesperson for Mr Key said the Prime Minister would be phoning Mrs Osborne to extend his apologies personally.

"The Prime Minister regrets this error and any distress it may have caused Mrs Osborne," the spokesperson said.

"The Prime Minister's Christmas cards are sent to every mayor and councillor in New Zealand, which is a database of 888 people. It is coordinated with Local Government New Zealand at the beginning of the local government term of office, and therefore is the same list as was used in 2010. Mr Osborne's name has been removed from the list and this error will not reoccur."