Father of teenager killed at Pike River says Andrew Little is trying to scare families into silence

A father whose son was killed at Pike River says the minister responsible for the mine recovery is trying to scare the families into silence.

Newshub has obtained a recording of Andrew Little warning families that speaking publicly and pushing to go further into the mine could jeopardise the prosecution case. 

The seal at the end of the Pike River drift is as far as the Government's willing to go. The West Coast mine was the site of the 2010 disaster that claimed the lives of 29 men. 

"I absolutely understand from some families the desire to do more and go further," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday. 

But her minister responsible for Pike River wants families to stop talking about that publicly, warning that they could jeopardise the police case. 

Newshub has obtained a recording of Little meeting some of the families, suggesting if people speak out they might not get justice. 

"It has the potential to undermine the prosecution," Little can be heard saying. 

"What I find personally annoying about some of the recent public statements is that here's the police trying to get on with the job and do the best they can to get the evidence they need from the ventilation fan and there are other people going around and saying that's not good enough. That has a real potential to undermine the prosecution case."

Many families want two things: justice through successful prosecutions and the bodies recovered. 

Dean Dunbar's17-year-old son Joseph was killed on his first day working at the mine. He says drumming up fear will silence some families desperate to see accountability. 

"Yeah, I think he's trying to silence the other families," Dunbar told Newshub. 

And if the families hadn't piped up publicly to date - they wouldn't be where they are now. 

"No convictions, no justice, no drift recovery, no evidence, no body recovery - nothing. So, for Andrew to say that, all I can say is Andrew's mistaken," says Dunbar. 

Little does not have the backing of his boss on this either.

Newshub asked the Prime Minister if families publicly pushing to go further could somehow jeopardise the case.

"No, no, I don't believe so, and I can't see any reason why it would," she said. 

But no matter how hard families fight to go further, the money and political will has run dry.

"For us, right from the beginning, we've said that this is the goal that we had as a Government, was to recover the drift," Ardern said. 

Dunbar says that's "simply not true". 

Some families believe not going further is not only a missed opportunity but a broken promise.

Little once again refused to do an interview. His office provided a statement to Newshub. 

"Decisions on prosecutions are a matter for the police," he says in the statement. "I stand by all of my actions. The Government has delivered on our promise to safely recover the Pike River drift. Forensic analysis of the drift continues."

Police prosecutions and police independence are supposed to be sacrosanct, so a minister pre-judging a prosecution and what could impact its success could be seen as over-reach. And if those warnings potentially spook victims into silence, that's beyond the pale.

Little will have a chance to answer to families on this next Wednesday night. Newshub has learned another meeting is being held.

This time all families are invited - and there will be a vote on whether the Government should review its decision not to go further.