Pike families prepared to take Govt to court

1:00 pm on 19 November 2012

A spokesperson for some of the Pike River families says they will take the Government to court if it refuses to help recover the men's remains.

Twenty-nine men died in a series of methane explosions at the underground West Coast coal mine that began on 19 November 2010. Two men managed to get out to safety.

Bernie Monk says a report they commissioned from three international mining experts is with the Government awaiting approval.

Mr Monk says a way has been found to re-enter the mine up to the point where it is blocked by a rockfall and it is now up to the Government to find the funding. He says if it won't help, the families will be taking legal action.

A spokesperson for the Acting Minister of Labour, Chris Finlayson, said on Monday the Government has not received a copy of the report.

Neville Rockhouse, whose son Ben was killed, says he is still struggling to come to terms with what happened at Pike River.

Mr Rockhouse was the safety manager at the time and says while a Royal Commission into the disaster has exonerated him, it is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life.

"The journey that we've been on over this last couple of years is just unbelievable and the frustration sort of feels surreal - it can't be happening to you, what have you done to deserve this. Going through the commission, cross-examinations, interviews - it's highly not recommended."

Mr Rockhouse says the past two years has been incredibly tough and even now he can't believe that his son is gone. He says an attempt should now be made to recover the bodies.

However, Greymouth mayor Tony Kokshoorn says getting to the main workings of the mine will be complicated and expensive.

The Royal Commission's damning report on the Pike River mine tragedy was released on 5 November. It says the company paid insufficient attention to health and safety matters and exposed workers to unacceptable risks in its drive to produce coal.

The commission also heavily criticised the then Department of Labour for failing to properly supervise the mine. Only two workers, Daniel Rockhouse and Russell Smith, survived the blast.