Exclusive: Police prepare to re-open Pike River investigation

Police are preparing to open a new investigation into the Pike River explosion - and are open to laying criminal charges.

Newshub has learned the country's highest-ranking investigator, Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers, was in Greymouth last week.

In addition, Police Commissioner Mike Bush has secretly met with families for the first time since NZ Police closed the case in 2013.

The new investigation is reliant on access being gained to the mine's access tunnel or drift.

Asst Cmmr Chambers, who is responsible for investigations, and Det Supt Peter Read attended the meeting with the Pike River Recovery Agency at the New Zealand Mines Rescue at Rapahoe, just outside Greymouth last week.

The pair with Pike River families representatives Bernie Monk and Anna Osborne.

Asst Cmmr Chambers also visited the Pike River Memorial, but not the mine itself.

"Police would have a dual role should re-entry to the drift be achieved," a statement issued to Newshub read.

"One involves completion of the scene examination in relation to the original police investigation. The other role involves management of any processes required on behalf of the coroner.

"Any new evidence which is identified would be assessed to determine what, if any relevance it had on the original investigation which concluded in July 2013."

Police said the discussions raised the option of a police member being seconded to work closely with the Pike River Recovery Agency, albeit remotely.

Asked repeatedly if police could rule out charges being laid, a spokesman replied: "We can only reiterate what we said earlier, which is that any new evidence which is identified would be assessed to determine what, if any relevance it had on the original investigation."

Police also confirmed Cmmr Mike Bush met with the Pike River Families Reference Group in December 2017 to express police support for the re-entry planning, as well as a commitment to completion of investigative steps if re-entry to the drift was achieved.

"The families have always considered Pike River a crime scene," Mr Monk said.

"We've always wanted the police to investigate it a lot more - right from the word go we pushed for that, and all of a sudden they've arrived on our doorstep after a lot of dialogue and said yes, they are going to re-investigate it and reopen up the investigation, which should be very pleasing to the families."