Anna Osborne lost her husband in the Pike River disaster eight years ago. Today she writes an open letter to thank New Zealand for its support after the Government approved plans to re-enter the mine.

It was different this year. The Pike River memorial, I mean. We stood there at the mouth of the mine portal like we have every November 19th - since the first year following the agonising catastrophe that was the Pike River explosion. But for the first time in all of those years, with the announcement of re-entry of the mine's drift, it felt different for me, it felt lighter.

Don't get me wrong, there is still grief, a lot of grief that I don't think will ever leave the families of the 29 men who died and the two who staggered out, but there is also hope. I don't know exactly what's at the end of the drift, nobody does. There could be evidence of exactly what caused the explosion, there could be the remains of some of our men, there could be a drift runner containing the remains of many of our men.

Osborne, left, and Sonya Rockhouse are emotional as Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little announces he has approved a re-entry plan for the mine. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Osborne, left, and Sonya Rockhouse are emotional as Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little announces he has approved a re-entry plan for the mine. Photo / Mark Mitchell

I do know what will be there is the fulfilment of a promise. The promise made to the Pike River families a long time ago to do everything possible for truth and justice, and the promise to all New Zealanders to not walk away from them when something terrible like this happens to them.

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Because I believe that this is bigger than the families of Pike. I believe it's about making it clear that being a Kiwi is about looking after each other and doing the right thing. Since the announcement that the drift will be recovered I've had dozens and dozens of people congratulate me on "my" win. The truth is it is our win. By which I mean all of us who want to live in a country where justice is done. Sonya, Bernie, me and the other Pike families didn't do this alone. We couldn't have.

Anna Osborne holds a photograph of her husband Milton, who perished in the Pike River Mine disaster, after the signing of the cross-party deal, to re-enter the mine in 2017. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Anna Osborne holds a photograph of her husband Milton, who perished in the Pike River Mine disaster, after the signing of the cross-party deal, to re-enter the mine in 2017. Photo / Mark Mitchell

That's why I want to congratulate all of you. The lawyers and other professionals who spent untold hours of their time working for free because they wanted to right this wrong, the hundreds of people who stood with us at the Pike River gates and at the protests around the country, the thousands of people who sent messages of support, and the vast majority of Kiwis who just knew this was the right thing to do. And, of course, the late Helen Kelly who gave us so much strength.

When we first started to negotiate recovery of the drift with the new Government we asked every family we had contact with for their mandate to do so. Of the families of the 29 who died and the two survivors, Daniel Rockhouse and Russell Smith, 28 gave us their blessing and campaigned alongside us. On behalf of these families and all of the people so brutally affected by Pike River and the subsequent fight for justice - thank you. You have restored our faith in New Zealand and its people.