Former Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the Government's gone back on its word at Pike River and he's fighting to prove it in court.
Newshub Nation has obtained an affidavit from Peters backing 20 Pike River families who say the Government hasn't delivered on what was promised.
Peters made finding the truth at Pike River an election bottom line in 2017. Today, with the mine about to be sealed, he says the Government never finished the job.
"I know what the Cabinet - the last Government - committed itself to, and it's clearly going back on its word. It should not be able to get away with it," he told Newshub Nation.
The remains of 29 men still lie somewhere inside Pike River along with the evidence of what went wrong. But the Government has decided the recovery mission is out of money and out of time.
Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little says exploring 2.4km into the tunnel known as the drift is what was promised and what was delivered. Peters calls it "one of the most disappointing things" he's ever seen in politics and is adamant Little is wrong.
"That's preposterous - there's no way we'd spend that sort of money just to recover the drift."
The families of 20 Pike River victims are urgently taking the Government to court seeking to stop the mine being sealed and to push further, beyond the drift.
An affidavit from Peters was filed on Friday and Newshub Nation has obtained a copy.
- "None of us had the expectation that this would end at the end of the drift."
- "The promise we made is not complicated."
- "We would assess the situation once we knew what we were up against."
The Government's commitment was to go in and find out the truth if that was possible - and it is possible, says Peters.
The families commissioned their own study this year to show it was possible to enter the mine and a Government review said it was feasible. But Little ruled that out in May, saying the Cabinet-mandated authority was only ever to recover the drift.
But Peters isn’t buying it.
"I believed then it was possible, because of the expert advice I'd got - and now we know it is. So why on earth is this being stopped?" he said.
Peters had a seat at the Cabinet table when the Pike River Recovery Agency was set up. They agreed to consider going into the mine workings when the drift recovery was "well advanced". But Little took it off the table in March 2020 before the recovery was a quarter done.
Bernie Monk, who lost his son Michael at Pike River and is leading families to fight in court, had a stark message for the minister.
"I've said it to Mr Little - you've lied to us… We need people standing up to this Government to make sure they fulfil the obligation they promised the families to do."
It's a last desperate chance for answers before the mine is sealed for good.
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