Hundreds of documents briefing new Government ministers on key policies have been released. Herald journalists have been analysing the Briefings to Incoming Ministers (Bims). Here we look at Pike River.

The three expert reports supplied to the Pike River families for a manned re-entry into the mine's drift do not fully take into account cost or risk, according to the briefing to the incoming minister.

Some of the mine deficiencies identified in the briefing are information gaps and structural problems that could lead to a risk of asphyxiation or roof collapse, which Solid Energy believed could not be adequately mitigated.

But Pike River Minister Andrew Little says he has more updated information since the briefing that leads him to believe that the prospects for re-entry have improved, adding that the briefing reflected the different political values of the last Government.


​Read more
Briefings to incoming ministers: The highlights

"These BIMs are prepared by the previous Government. They really probably suit a set of political circumstances and values that prevailed at that time.

"I'm very confident from the work that's been done now and the reports I've seen that the feasibility of getting into the mine is considerably greater than what the public were led to believe three months ago."

Little said the briefing did not "reflect the information I've seen more recently".

"I've seen the BIM. But I've seen the advice that has been coming to me since ... The indications are that it is technically feasible and increasingly physically feasible."

The briefing, from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, outlined Solid Energy's position that manned re-entry was technically feasible, but the risks could not be adequately mitigated.

It said some of the obstacles were the crippled integrity of existing roof and wall supports, a lack of full information about the mine's structure, and the risk of rockfall from strata failure, such as a roof collapse.

The mine had 234 identified hazards that could lead to the mine filling with air that is not breathable, flooding with accumulated water in the mine workings, or exploding from an ignition of flammable gas.

Solid Energy noted that a failure of just one of over 600 controls could lead to injury or entrapment.

The briefing notes that the families have put forward include three different expert-informed reports about manned re-entry since 2012.

The families believe that the level of risk can be adequately mitigated with "standard mining procedures and a team of highly skilled miners".

The Government will set up the Pike River Recovery Agency to look into a manned re-entry by March 2019 in an attempt to recover any remains of the 29 men killed in the 2010 tragedy.

The commitment is part of its 100-day programme, but it says that a manned re-entry will not go ahead unless the risks can be safely managed.