6 Jul 2011

Contractors threaten boycott of Royal Commission

8:29 am on 6 July 2011

A group of Pike River contractors has formally told the Royal Commission into the mine disaster that its members will not appear before it due to a lack of funding for legal representation.

Twenty nine men died in explosions at the West Coast mine on 19 November last year.

The contractors are owed just over $5 million by the Pike River Coal company, which is in receivership.

They say work to get the money back has unearthed vital evidence for the commission.

But Gerry Morris, a spokesperson for the group, says that evidence will not be presented to phase one of the commission if the contractors do not get funding for lawyers to represent them there.

Mr Morris says a memorandum of counsel was filed with the Royal Commission on Tuesday, advising it of the situation. The commission has the power to require people to appear.

Group chair Peter Haddock told Morning Report on Wednesday that legal representation is necessary, because while police and Labour Department investigations into the disaster are still in progress, it would be unwise to give evidence to the commission without a lawyer present.