FRUSTRATED families say New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is unwilling to pay to retrieve the bodies of the 29 men trapped in the Pike River coal mine.
Mr Key was on the west coast on Tuesday and met some of the families who have been waiting for news of the recovery effort ever since the mine exploded nearly two years ago.
State-owned coal mining company Solid Energy has bought the closed-up mine and families spokesman Bernie Monk said he had been told by the company it would support them with equipment if they found people willing to enter the first part of the mine.
But Mr Monk said Mr Key told him that doing that would be too expensive and the government would be unwilling to pay for it, despite the money for the recovery being put aside when the mine was sold.
“The money’s already there – so it’s not coming out of the country’s pocket, it’s not coming out of anybody’s pocket … and he just totally ignored me, he showed no interest in it whatsoever and I was absolutely gutted,” Mr Monk told Radio New Zealand.
“I just couldn’t believe that he just wrote us off like that … I was hoping that he’d listen to us and tell us to go ahead.”
Mr Key said the government would have to be convinced that entering the mine would be safe before it would allow anyone to go in.
Despite taking advice that it was not safe to re-enter the mine, the prime minister said he would take another look at Mr Monk’s proposal.