Bill English and Pike River's Bernie Monk meet

Prime Minister Bill English (Newshub)
Prime Minister Bill English (Newshub)

A day after ruling out meeting with Pike River families on his first full day as Prime Minister, Bill English has bumped into the victims' spokesman Bernie Monk at Parliament.

Mr English said he ran into Mr Monk while on his way to an interview on Tuesday morning, and they had a brief discussion.

He told Mr Monk, who he'd met before outside the context of Pike River, he will consider meeting with the families publicly.

When asked if it's an option to take the ownership off Solid Energy, creating a new Crown entity, Mr English said: "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 Monk had requested a meeting with Mr English about new plans for a mine re-entry which was part of the latest report from the UK.

At his first news conference as Prime Minister on Monday, Mr English said he "won't have the time" for a meeting at such short notice.

However, he did leave the door open for a possible discussion in the future.

Labour Leader Andrew Little urged Mr English to take charge of the situation and "work with the families and check out the safety".

Mr Little added that Solid Energy have been "totally hopeless in terms of leadership".

"I've spoken to others independently of the family who have told me it is possible to go in there safely", Mr Little said.

Supporters of the Pike River families are set to gather outside Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

It comes as a new report is released about the mine's safety, and a major development in which Mr Monk was handed ownership of the private road into the now disused mine.

Mr English said going back into the mine to recover possible remains and evidence was not a decision to be made by politicians.

The mine is set to be permanently sealed off, but the access road has been blocked off as a protest.

Mr Monk has threatened to serve any concrete trucks trying to get through the road to do the work with trespass notices.


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