You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Families block road to Pike River

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/12/2016

Families of the Pike River dead say they have a new plan to try and re-enter the West Coast coal mine as they also block the access road to stop work on sealing its entrance.

Dozens of people were assembled on the road to the mine on Monday morning, after the farmer who owns the land the road runs through gave them control of it.

"Crime scene" and "Pike River cover up" signs adorned gates across the road.

"We are going to treat Solid Energy the same way as they've treated us over the last six years, padlocked us out, chained it up, so they'll have to come to us to ask for permission for anything they want to do up there," families spokesman Bernie Monk told Newshub.

They could issue trespass notices because it was private land, he said.

They had asked for a meeting on Tuesday with incoming prime minister Bill English but it's not going to happen.

"I simply won't have time tomorrow to be honest," Mr English told reporters.

""But I'm happy to consider a meeting at some stage later - but I'd need to have a very good look at the situation.

"I'm open to listening to the families."

Labour leader Andrew Little says that's disappointing.

"Here's an opportunity for the new prime minister to show leadership on what is a very sensitive issue," he said.

"The families have been waiting year after year, they were promised everything possible would be done."

Mr Little says the government should hold an independent investigation into whether it's safe to enter the drift.

The families have a new plan for re-entering the mine to try to find clues about the 2010 explosions which killed 29 men and left their bodies underground.

"We are not going to let them do any work until this is answered," Mr Monk said.

Solid Energy could not be reached for comment.

The state-owned coal miner bought Pike River with the intention of eventually re-opening it but now says the expert view is the methane-filled mine is too dangerous to re-enter.

It wants to seal the entrance way before it is handed over to the Department of Conservation, but the families are going to court over it and last month Allied Concrete pulled out of supplying concrete for the job until the matter was settled.

Solid Energy has rejected claims the mine's entry shaft is safe, that it is not listening to families' experts, not talking to the families and acting with indecent haste.

The idea the mine was being sealed because it had something to hide or was colluding with the government in a cover-up plot as "incorrect and farcical", it said.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon