Pike River families want new mine ownership
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters has put his hand up to be the first one back in the Pike River mine, after the release of a new report by the victims' families.
"I'm so confident of the reports I've seen, that I've volunteered to be one of the first ones to go back in", Mr Peters says.
"I used to work in tunnelling in the Snowy Mountains where we used to lose a man a mile. I was happy to work there, and I'll be happy to be part of the crew re-entering the drift at Pike."
The families of the 29 men killed in the 2010 Pike River Mine explosion are calling on the government to create a special entity to take over ownership of the mine from Solid Energy.
The Pike River Families Committee released a new report outside Parliament today outlining a new, safer method of re-entering the mine, which expands on a plan rejected by the state-owned company last year.
The report is written by David Creedy, vice chair of the UN Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane and Bob Stevenson, former UK Principal Mines Inspector.
One of the main requests is a plea for the Government to intervene and remove Solid Energy from the equation altogether.
"The way forward would require transfer of all responsibilities and liabilities from Solid Energy to a government entity.
"Only direct action by the New Zealand Government can decide the outcome. It would appear that re-entry would only proceed if Solid Energy no longer had any responsibility for the mine", the report says.
"The legal implications of who the future owners/operators of the mine would be should be considered as soon as possible."
Pike River families spokesperson Bernie Monk at the announcement (Newshub)
The government-owned company bought the mine in 2012 but its board has rejected plans to re-enter the mine, despite having the approval of senior engineers and the Chief Inspector of Mines.
Solid Energy now wants to permanently seal the mine, meaning the bodies of the 29 men, and all evidence relating to the explosion, would be entombed there forever.
The report suggests otherwise, saying there's "no technical mining reason that a re-entry into Pike River Drift could not be achieved safely".
The families are in Wellington until Wednesday evening and said they're willing to meet with Prime Minister Bill English at "any time and any place he is available".
Mr English said this morning he's willing to consider meeting with the families publicly, but was sceptical about the proposal to transfer the mine's ownership from Solid Energy.
"Whoever owns the mine, it doesn't make any difference to whether it's safe or not and whoever does own it still has to make decisions about safety", Mr English said.
Mr Peters meeting with Pike River family members Dean Dunbar, Winnie, Anna Osbourne, Sonja Rockhouse, and Bernie Monk (Newshub)
Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Ben died in the disaster, said the plan "isn't just about getting our boys out, it's about getting into the drift to get evidence of what happened down there".
"This report makes it clear that there is likely to be evidence down there that could save other lives around the world."
Solid Energy has said in a recent public letter that it is too dangerous to re-enter the mine, and has rejected claims that it's not listening to the families or their experts.