NEW Zealand Prime Minister John Key has personally apologised to the families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River mine disaster.
But they took little solace from Mr Key’s words at a meeting in Greymouth on Thursday, as they continue to campaign for the bodies of their loved ones to be retrieved from the mine where they have lain since the November 2010 gas explosions.
“People were upset at the way government had handled things,” said Bernie Monk, who acts as spokesman for most of the families.
The families had an opportunity to air their views and they did, he said.
“They asked a lot of questions. In fact the families gave the prime minister a fair going over.
“He apologised to each one in person.”
International experts the families engaged concluded it was feasible to re-enter the mine, but this clashed with advice the government had received.
Mr Monk hoped the experts could thrash it out, and believed it would be accepted if both groups agreed there was no safe plan to enter the mine.
“Then we would walk away from it,” he said.
“But we cannot move on until there has been at least an attempt to get into the mine.”
Lawyer for the families, Colin Smith, said there was obvious frustration at this lack of progress.
A big positive of the meeting, however, was the government’s commitment to implement all the recommendations of the royal commission into the disaster.
Mr Key told reporters that if the families or Solid Energy could come up with a safe and credible plan to go into the drift, the government would help fund it.
But he didn’t think that it would ever be possible to go deep into the mine where many of the miners were believed to be working when the explosions occurred.
“I told them in plain English that all the advice I’ve had in my office has always been that it will not be possible to get in the mine’s workings itself,” he said.