'We're the victims': Bernie Monk accuses Government of breaking its promise to Pike River families

Watch: Bernie Monk speaks with The AM Show. Credit: The AM Show

Most of the Pike River families want the Government to continue further into the mine, despite its decision to wind down re-entry efforts, according to spokesperson Bernie Monk.   

This is despite the Pike River Family Reference Group issuing a statement last week saying 27 families accepted the Government's decision. 

The group said it had met with Pike River Recovery Minister Andrew Little, families and the mine manager and accepted that continuing would be too expensive 

"Families accept advice that going further would be a major, expensive engineering project, with complex potential safety risks, and it would be difficult to convince WorkSafe to give further exemption to mining licence.

"Families accept, with heartbreak, Andrew Little's advice that there will be no more government money to expand the project at this time." 

But Pike River families spokesperson Bernie Monk disputed that 22 of the families accepted the decision. 

He said at a meeting on Wednesday night 22 families showed support for going further, with only two saying they wanted the mine sealed. 

The families are accusing the Government of breaking its promise and want re-entry to continue past the top of the drift. 

"All we're asking is they keep putting money. One thing that came out of last night is I can't believe the amount of families that are on board here. It was unbelievable and the other thing is I don't want them to say that it's the families' problem that we've spent all this money - we're the victims here," he told The AM Show on Thursday. 

Monk says the Government agreed to "return the men home to their families" which it has failed to do. 

"New Zealanders don't break promises and I don't want to get into a personal battle with Minister Little but he's broken a promise, like all the promises that have been broken before us." 

The 22 families are planning to commission their own feasibility study with help of independent international experts, which they will present to the Government 

But Minister Little disputes Monk's claim, telling The AM Show the Government never committed to going further. 

"The commitment the Government made was to recover the drift, to do the forensic work, to do the examination, to get into the pit bottom and stone, we are completing that," he said on Thursday. 

Little said unfortunately he "cannot justify" the cost of continuing further. 

"The cost to go further, which is what some families want, because of the health and safety issues would be millions and millions of dollars more and I just don't have that money and Cabinet is not going to approve that money."

And one Pike River mother agrees with the Government's decision. 

Marion Curtin lost her son in the blast but told Newshub she has no interest in blame and retribution.

She said the area surrounding the mine is stunningly beautiful and a fitting resting place for her son Richard Holling's remains.  

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz