Hapū welcome re-entry of Pike River Mine

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • South Island

Francois Tumahai of Ngāti Waewae is welcoming the government's commitment to re-enter the mine to recover bodies of the 29 men whose lives were claimed in the 2010 explosion. The West Coast hapū say they will support families of Pike River Mine victims throughout the re-entry process.

There were tears and hugs from families at the announcement on Wednesday morning.  Now they may finally be able to put their loved ones to rest.

Anna Osbourne, widow of Pike River miner Milton Osborne, says, "This is a victory for the families.  This is a victory for the little people of New Zealand who feel like sometimes it's too hard to carry on or win a battle because there's so many road blocks been put in the way."

Ngāti Waewae Spokesperson Francois Tumahai says hapū have worked closely to support families and government since the disaster and will continue to offer support during re-entry efforts.

"Really pleased that they're doing this, especially in terms of the whānau involved.  A great day here in Greymouth," says Tumahai.

It's nearly eight years to the day since the Pike River Mine explosion. 

After careful consideration the minister responsible for Pike River re-entry, Andrew Little has approved a single entry plan into the mine drift.  He says re-entry would be "extraordinarily complex" but ensures that the process to make it safe is robust.

"The first major task to gain re-entry is the breaching of the 30 metre seal which is likely to commence in February next year," he says.

The mine will be treated as a crime scene as re-entry efforts aim to recover bodies and collect evidence of what caused the explosion.

"Investigations into potential criminal wrongdoing are still open for the police.  As for WorkSafe, the other prosecuting agency, it will be a matter for them whether there is any evidence that allows them to prosecute.”

Little says former Pike River boss Peter Whittall cannot not be charged with offences again. 

Preparation for re-entry commences next month.