Pike River re-entry costs jump again but no sign of body recovery

Pike River Recovery Minister Andrew Little has announced that Cabinet has approved of further funds “to complete the project”, but failed to mention a key figure – the total cost.It had already been raised substantially to $36 million “plus some capital expenditure” in 2018, but that has now been raised another $10.8 million as well as a $4.2 million contingency, bringing the total up to a possible $51 million.

And that is just to get as far as the rockfall in the mine, which is probably nowhere near most if not all of the bodies so recovery looks as unlikely as ever, despite the hope given to the families of some of the victims.

Beehive: Final costs for Pike River recovery released

Following the standard process of first communicating to the families, Pike River Recovery Minister Andrew Little has confirmed that Cabinet has approved final funding for the completion of the Coalition Government’s commitment to the Pike River recovery.

Andrew Little also confirmed that, as has been the scope since the start of the project, the recovery effort will not be going beyond the end of the drift and into the main mine workings.

“The Coalition government remains committed to the safe and successful recovery and forensic examination of the Pike River drift. It is important to promote accountability for what happened, to inform the ongoing criminal investigation into the tragedy, and to help prevent future tragedies,” Andrew Little said.

“The Pike River Recovery Agency now expects it will most likely be possible to complete recovery work underground by July/August of this year and hand the mine over to the Department of Conservation for ongoing management by the end of the year. Cabinet has approved a further $10.8 million to complete the project as well as a $4.2 million contingency,” Andrew Little said.

But there is no sign of there being any chance of body recovery. A cabinet paper details they original aimed to do…

…and what they now expect to achieve:

December 2016: Winston Peters pledges to be first to re-enter Pike River mine

To chants of “Winston for Prime Minister,” New Zealand First leader Winston Peters offered to be the first to go back into the condemned Pike River Mine.

Peters was speaking at a rally of some of the Pike River families and their spokesman Bernie Monk who came to Parliament to push their case for re-entry into the stricken mine.

He says he’s read some of the safety reports on Pike River and, like the families, believes it’s now safe to return.

January 2017: Peters meets with Pike River families

Yesterday, Mr Peters met with the families at the picket line near the site’s entrance, and he will meet with them again today at a public meeting in Greymouth.

Mr Peters said he wanted to show the families he would not ignore them, and supported them completely.

“The political system has shut them down, ignored them and has done its best to raise the suspicion that someone’s involved in a cover-up here. Otherwise, why did Solid Energy buy Pike River Mine and why do they want to seal it up for ever?

“Now these families want justice, they want peace of mind, closure, and it could be done if the government was acting in the way it should be doing, and in the way it promised.”

He said he supported the Pike River families who wanted to re-enter the mine, and reiterated his earlier vow not to agree to a coalition with any party that did not hold the same view.

Peters didn’t specifically mention body recovery, but that’s what ‘closure’ means to some people.

Prior to the 2017 election Cross-party agreement pledges a reentry of Pike River Mine

Jacinda Ardern says a Labour Government would reenter the Pike River Mine.

The leaders of Labour, United Future, the Maori Party and the Green Party signed a commitment in Wellington on Tuesday to reenter the West Coast mine.

“Re-entering the drift will mean we can recover some of the men, and evidence of the cause of the explosions. That will help deliver justice and answers, and bring the men home to their families.”

Families of the Pike River victims say they are “over the moon” with the cross-party agreement for an agency to take ownership of the mine and reclaim the drift to recover remains and evidence.

This obviously raised hopes and expectations of families.

The Labour-NZ First coalition agreement merely stated “Commit to re-entry to Pike River”.  They followed through on this, to an extent – Andrew Little enters Pike River portal

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little, and Pike Family representatives Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse have entered the Pike River Mine portal.

“Today we walked together into the mine portal to demonstrate a safe re-entry is possible. I made the emotional journey with representatives of families who have fought for years for re-entry.

“In our first 100 days the Coalition Government handed the keys to Pike River Mine to the families, and established Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau Ma Iwa Pike River Recovery Agency. In the 11 weeks since the Agency was created we’ve made real progress on safe re-entry. Today proves that.

“Again, I’d like to acknowledge all the families who are working in partnership with me and the Coalition Government. We owe it to those families to re-enter the drift and retrieve evidence and the remains of their loved ones,” says Andrew Little.

In May 2019 when re-entry began from Winston Peters: Long awaited re-entry to Pike River Mine

Today’s successful re-entry into the Pike River Coal Mine is a victory for the families who are fighting tirelessly for answers, says New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters.

“Re-entry into Pike River is about justice. It’s about finding out the truth, and it is about doing what’s right for the families of those 29 men,” Mr Peters said.

“On the 13th of December 2016 New Zealand First promised those families that we would re-enter Pike River Mine. It is with solemnity that we deliver on a that promise today,” he said.

Re-entry into Pike River Mine was a bottom-line commitment for New Zealand First, and was entrenched in the Labour-New Zealand First Coalition agreement.

“Today is a milestone for those families. The previous government showed so little courage and completely disregarded the need for accountability.

“We have shown today that going back in was possible and could be done safely,” said Mr Peters.

Yesterday Pike River mine: Entry tunnel recovery cost soars to $47 million

Pike River mother Sonya Rockhouse said the re-entry project, and the evidence it would unearth, was the best chance families had to see someone held to account for killing their men.

“People ask me why so much money is being spent, to me it’s quite simple: it’s being spent to try to solve the mass homicide of 29 men. We can’t be a country that refuses people justice because it costs too much,” she said.

There has been no indication of evidence unearthed so far.

Bernie Monk has battled for nearly a decade to get his son Michael back and to see somebody held accountable for his death.

For him, the news that no assessment will be made of whether the main workings of the mine can be entered means his battle is a long way from finished.

“How can they make this call when the whole idea was to go down 800m – it’s never been investigated – [to] make a call before we even get there,” Monk said.

So the $51m looks unlikely to get Bernie Monk what he wants.

Stuff: Government approves another $15m for Pike River recovery

Pike River widow Anna Osborne said the Government’s plan to close the door on reentry of the mine workings was “premature”.

“It seems a bit odd to say no to that before we have got to the end of the drift and assessed whether reentry of the mine workings is needed or even possible,” she said.

She called for other families to campaign for reentry of the mine workings.

Anna Osborne wants re-entry to the mine workings, not just to part of the access tunnel. There seems to be no scope to achieve this.

Rowdy Durbridge, whose son Dan died in the mine, said he was proud of what the families had achieved for their boys.

“I had family and mates die in that mine. I worked beside them down there and I’ve felt a responsibility to them ever since,” he said.

“That’s feeling’s never going to go away but having fought and won drift reentry and the investigation of their deaths, that’s something I think me and the families and a whole lot of Kiwis who believe in justice can hold our heads high about.”

There is no sign of what accountability and justice might achieve.

Leave a comment

3 Comments

  1. adamsmith1922

     /  18th March 2020

    Total waste of money, for photo ops, appeasement of Monk and assuaging Littl’s guilty conscience

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  18th March 2020

      It was John Keys commitment too.
      “The first thing is I’m here to give you absolute reassurance, we’re committed to getting the boys out, and nothing’s going to change that. So – when people try and tell you we’re not, they’re playing, I hate to say it, but they’re playing with your emotions.”
      direct quote from the video taken at his meeting with families

      So twice he made a commitment – ‘absolute and ‘nothing is going to change it’. It wast just that week , it was 11 months later . The difficulty was known at the time because they wouldnt do a rescue.

      Even doubling down on the doubters who would think its not possible …hmmm

      Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  18th March 2020

      The decision was made not to risk the living to bring out a few shreds of cremated bodies. When he made the promise, the dangers were not known.

      I think that the money would be better spent on the living than a futile exercise that will probably NOT bring ‘closure’ (how can it ?) or ‘justice’ (ditto)

      The wishes of the families who don’t want this to happen have been ignored.

      Reply

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