Pike River mine may become a reservation

  • 06/11/2014

The families of the men killed in the Pike River tragedy want the mine and surrounding land to be given reservation status and never mined again.

Solid Energy has confirmed it won't be re-entering the site because recovery workers would face potentially fatal risks in the search for the bodies of 29 men who died in the explosion four years ago.

READ MORE: Solid Energy won't re-enter Pike River mine

The decision was met with sadness and anger this morning, but the victim's families say it's time to move on and have issued the Government with a set of demands.

Their lawyer, Colin Smith, says among them is protecting the sanctity and integrity of the spot where the men lay.

"In light of the decision the families have turned their mind to the future," he said today. "They would be looking to see the area either included in the adjoining national park or at the very least to become Schedule 4 land to ensure mining could not continue in future."

The families have also asked the Government to guarantee "unfettered" access to the area.

"This is going to be the final resting place for the men it is extremely important they have unfettered access at all times to the site where the men lay," Mr Smith says.

Prime Minister John Key met with the families today and said the matter would be put before Acting Minister of Conservation Nick Smith to ensure a memorial was established.

"I think it's a very difficult situation but to at least be able to control that bit of the process is the bare minimum they deserve," he says. "I believe that the families have been incredibly brave and courageous in their advocacy for their men over the past four years. This has been a tragedy that's been incredibly draining and they've had to live with it every single day."

The families also asked the Government to reconsider a prosecution of the parties involved in the mine's explosion and to introduce corporate manslaughter laws.

Mr Key said criminal charges were unlikely as they had already been considered by the Crown but promised to ask Crown Law to investigate the possibility of a civil suit.

"We'll be sharing that advice with the families and in the event that civil proceedings could be brought against culpable parties, then the Government will fund those legal proceedings," he says.

Mr Key described the Pike River explosion as a "tragedy all New Zealanders mourn".

"If there is anything positive that has come out this whole tragedy it's that workplace safety rules have changed in New Zealand forever and the legacy of these 29 brave men will be that workplaces in New Zealand will be much safer as a result of their incredible sacrifice."

A spokesperson for some of the families, Bernie Monk, says they still believe re-entry of the main drift was technically feasible, but it was now time to look to the future.

"I've got to start asking myself, do I want to go through another three or four years of agony that I've been through and put the families through that," he says. "If this proposal we're putting forward is very fruitful for the area, I'd have to run with that.

"I want to get my guys home but the likelihood of it is pretty minimal now… I've got to ask whether I move on with my life."

Meanwhile, Solid Energy has announced plans to surrender the mining permit for Pike River and pass the reins on to Government, which has promised to accept the surrender.

Dr Smith, says ministers will be considering the families requests over the next few months.

"I will open up a dialogue with the families about the longer-term future of the site and I will take advice directly from the families when they feel the time is appropriate," he says.

"We will work hard to provide the families with closure and appropriate ways to remember their men."

The Government has promised to spend the $2 million it had already approved for the re-entry project on the site, and may approve more funding in future.

3 News / RadioLIVE

source: newshub archive