PM English won't meet Pike families - yet

The families of the Pike River victims have installed gates to block access to the Pike River Mine (Newshub)
The families of the Pike River victims have installed gates to block access to the Pike River Mine (Newshub)

Newly minted Prime Minister Bill English has left the door open to meeting with the Pike River families, but it won't happen as soon as they want.

The families had sought a meeting with Mr English on Tuesday following a dramatic development in the process to seal the mine permanently.

The owner of the private road leading to the mine, Colin Van Der Geest, has done a deal with the families to give them control of the access way.

"He's given us a letter that states that this is our piece of land until this is all sorted out," said Mr Monk.

The families are now blocking the access road, preventing concrete trucks getting through to seal up the mine.

"We're going to treat Solid Energy the same way they've treated us over the last six years," families spokesman Bernie Monk the Paul Henry programme on Monday morning.

"[Solid Energy] will have to come to us to ask permission from now on for anything they want to do up there."

Mr Monk says he's written to Bill English, asking for a meeting with the new Prime Minister on his first full day in the job on Tuesday.

"We have a brand new plan that has been brought in from the UK from our experts, which has been signed off by one of the top people round the world," he said.

PM English won't meet Pike families - yet

Families of the Pike River victims place roses at the gates blocking the road to the mine (Newshub.)

"That is what this protest is all about, getting a new plan together, making sure that justice and accountability is put in place and we can't cover up a crime scene here. That is what this meeting will be all about."

But Mr English says that meeting definitely won't happen on Tuesday.

"I won't have the time tomorrow to be honest. As I understand it, they sought an appointment quite recently but [I'm] happy to consider meeting with them at some stage later, but I'd need to have a very good look at the situation," Mr English said at his first news conference after being voted in as Prime Minister.

But he maintained the outcome of any meeting would be unlikely to end the dispute between the Government and the victims' families.  

"I'm open to listening to the families, but not to mislead anyone - it's not a political decision as to whether someone goes into the mine."

He says it's not an issue he plans to look into "within the next 12 or 24 hours". 

Last week, Solid Energy released a public letter stating its position on the mine.

In it, the company insists there's been no improvement in the conditions within the drift, and it is still too dangerous to try to re-enter the mine.

"Our decision was based on an exhaustive investigation into the feasibility of safe re-entry and was backed by independent international expertise," the letter reads.

In the letter, published in newspapers around the country, Solid Energy also rejected claims that it is not listening to the families' experts or talking to the families, and that it is acting with indecent haste.

It also labelled the idea the mine was being sealed because it had something to hide or was colluding with the government in a cover-up plot as "incorrect and farcical".

Mr Monk said the families want to meet the new Prime Minister to discuss another plan for entering the mine's drift.

"We have a brand new plan that has been brought in from the UK from our experts, which has been signed off by one of the top people round the world," he said.

"That is what this protest is all about, getting a new plan together, making sure that justice and accountability is put in place and we can't cover up a crime scene here. That is what this meeting will be all about."

Mr English hasn't agreed to meet with the families, but Mr Monk says they will be standing on the Parliament steps tomorrow anyway.

"I think they've got to seriously look at this. We're not going to let them do any work until this is answered. They can't just wipe us and bully us and make us make decisions that we don't want to do, so we're going to stand up for our rights right to the end here."

Solid Energy has been contacted for comment on the blockade.

Newshub.

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