Government's refusal to go further on Pike River prompts families to take matters into their own hands

Some Pike River families have united against the Government's refusal to consider going beyond the mine's drift - what they're calling a broken promise to the victims. 

The group says 23 of the 29 families have agreed to take matters into their own hands and - with the help of international mining experts - do a feasibility study themselves. 

Andrew Little, the minister responsible for Pike River, attended a meeting via Zoom for a rematch with the West Coast families who don't accept the Government's decision to just give up. 

They say he promised to go further.

"We've been lied to here and they're trying to walk away from us - sweep us under the table," Bernie Monk, who lost his son to the disaster, told Newshub. 

"Why would you stop halfway?" added Brian Nepia, who also lost his son. 

Little is steadfast, refusing to even consider going beyond the recovery of the mine's drift. He won't even consider a feasibility study because of the cost. 

"The study will cost a lot of money to produce," he told Newshub. "We don't have any more money left to spend on the project."

So the families are taking it upon themselves.

"We want the feasibility study we were promised in 2017 and we've decided we're going to commission that ourselves," says bereaved mum Carole Rose.

"Let's go and get em. It's doable, it's affordable, it's achievable," added Steve Rose. 

Newshub was leaked a recording from a meeting last week between Little and some of the families. The Government doesn't want to spend a penny more on the tragedy that killed 29 men.

"Ultimately it is because the political will to put more money into the project is not there," Little could be heard saying in the recording

"This Government has put money before the bodies we've seen to go and get them out and I just can't believe that they've stooped that low and forgotten about us now," Monk says. 

"The value of the lives of the 29 men has got to be worth whatever it costs to retrieve them," Steve Rose adds. 

Little says it will cost tens of millions - but hasn't actually costed going just beyond the roof fall. 

"That area probably gives us our best hope of finding a good answer to what caused the first explosion," says Richard Healey, an electrical engineer who independently investigated the disaster on behalf of some of the families for 18 months.

"Let's get some pricings done and just reassure the country it's not the huge money that's been put out into the public," says Monk.

At last week's meeting Little warned families that to speak out and push for evidence beyond the drift could jeopardise the police prosecution case 

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

Monk, whose son Michael is buried in the mine, says the families will not be silenced.

"He's trying to scaremonger the families he's trying to scaremonger the country into thinking that we're ruining the chances of any prosecution," he said of Little. 

The minister rejects that. 

"That is completely incorrect. That didn't happen."

Just because the Pike families have been united in grief does not mean they have to agree on what happens next. 

But by prioritising some families over others, the Government has seeded division, and Little's point blank refusal to even assess the cost and possibility of going beyond the drift is a slap in the face to those families already feeling let down.