Pike River families file for judicial review after rejection of plan to recover more evidence from mine

Twenty-nine men died in the 2019 explosion.
Twenty-nine men died in the 2019 explosion. Photo credit: Getty Images

Pike River families have filed for a judicial review challenging the Government's rejection of a plan to continue searching the mine for more evidence relating to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 men.

Twenty two of the 29 victims' families are supporting the application, which comes after Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little recently rejected a proposal to recover the mine's main ventilation fan, which is considered the likely source of the explosion. 

The proposal, which was undertaken by the Pike River Independent Technical Advisory Group on behalf of the victim's families, concluded it would be technically feasible to reach the fan.

However the Pike River Recovery Agency said the proposal "significantly" underestimated the time and costs involved in recovering the fan, and there were also unquantifiable technical issues involved.

On Friday, the Pike River Families Group Committee, which represents 22 of the victims' families, accused the Government of taking a "cut and run stance" in relation to the tragedy. 

"They made commitments to the families and to the people of New Zealand but the Minister seems to have forgotten what they were," the group said in a statement.

The group said Little was given the option of directing the Pike River Recovery Agency to complete a full risk assessed and costed plan to recover the fan or to "simply decline to implement the plan without any further consultation with families or their experts".

"He chose simply to decline to implement the plan."

The group said the Government was failing to live up to its commitment to the Pike River families based on principles of partnership, consultation and transparency.

"Little has rejected the families' plan without engaging or consulting with them or their technical advisors. He made no contact. As well as being a breach of the Government's commitments to the families, it is disappointing and has caused them further pain, given they took the Government at its word."

According to Stuff, the families' proposal would cost $8 million and take 12 weeks to complete. But the Pike River Recovery Agency disputed these figures, saying the true cost would be up to $25 million and it would take 10 months.

In their statement on Friday, the families said while their figures were "supported by data provided by the agency itself", the Government's cost and time estimate appeared to be just "guesswork".

"As Minister Little has rejected the agency option to complete a full costing on the plan, the figures and time frames quoted in the agency report cannot be substantiated and appear to be guesswork," the family group said.

Earlier this week Little told Stuff recovering the mine beyond the drift was not in the agency's terms of reference.

"Recovery of the mine workings is not what was requested by representatives of the Pike River families when Labour was developing its policy in opposition," he said.

"The Government has fulfilled its commitment to the Pike River families – that is to safely recover the Pike River Mine drift. The forensic examination continues."

He also stressed there had "never been a blank cheque" in regards to the recovery.

When contacted by Newshub on Friday, Little declined to comment.

“In view of their intention to take legal action it would be inappropriate to comment,” he said.