Pike River families put faith in Andrew Little

The Pike River families are confident Andrew Little will work to retrieve the bodies of the men killed in the West Coast mining disaster.

The November 2010 explosion is New Zealand's worst mining accident in almost a century - since 1914 - leaving 29 men dead near Greymouth. 

The retrieval of their bodies has become a difficult political issue, with Government partners Labour and New Zealand First promising manned re-entry to the mine. 

But to achieve that, they may need to work around health and safety laws, possibly requiring legislation.

On Monday morning, Mr Little got the ball rolling, meeting with family representatives Sonya Rockhouse, Bernie Monk and Anna Osborne in his new Beehive office.

They were bubbling with optimism afterwards.

"We are pretty excited," Mr Monk said."We are starting with new people on the ground… we have confidence in Mr Little making this happen."

Added Ms Osborne: "He knows the ins and outs of Pike River - we believe Mr Little is going to deliver for us."

Mr Little said he would take personal responsibility for re-entry. He would create a legal entity to take control of the re-entry project and "do what ought to have been done some time ago".

He said he would be keeping NZ First leader Winston Peters in "close contact with progress on the issues".

Mr Peters campaigned hard on Pike River, at one stage promising to enter the mine himself, and gained a commitment to re-entry as part of his coalition agreement with Labour.

Media reports had Mr Little anticipating re-entry of the mine early next year, but on Monday, he admitted that's unlikely. 

"I know it's been reported that I want re-entry as early as possible," he said. "What's important is to get the legal entity set up, then there is the planning process. 

"That is going to be detailed, so I don't expect re-entry necessarily early next year."

But Mr Little hoped to get the issue to Cabinet within the next two weeks and any legislation in the House before Christmas. 

He said the critical thing was to have an entity in place to pick up from Solid Energy, when they go into liquidation.

"This has been a political issue for a long time," said Mr Little. "The families have been short-changed, obstructed… for a long time. 

"They've lost a bit of faith in the Government processes."