31 Oct 2017

Little to meet with Pike River families

8:48 am on 31 October 2017

Labour's Andrew Little will be meeting with Pike River families within the next week to discuss plans for re-entering the mine.

A makeshift checkpoint set up on the road to Pike River Mine by some of the families of the 29 men who died.

Placards at a makeshift checkpoint set up on the road to Pike River mine last year by some of the families of the 29 men who died. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Mr Little, the new minister responsible for Pike River re-entry, said yesterday he hoped people would be able to go in to the mine by March or April next year.

Watch Andrew Little interview with Morning Report's Susie Ferguson:

He said the meeting was to hear the families' expectations, and consider technical advice they've received, share advice the government has, and start to work out a plan for manned re-entry.

Earlier this month mine owner Solid Energy said it was on track to begin underground exploration using a remote controlled vehicle by Christmas.

Mr Little said he had been surprised to hear that would have used a device which was yet to built and may not have even been designed.

"I'm yet to see the full detail on that but the way it's been described to me ... I don't even think there is a plan"

Mr Little said the previous government had natural concerns about risks of manned entry.

"But what the advice I've received says is these risks are known and quantifiable there are ways of mitigating most of these risks.

The biggest risk was rockfall, he said.

Solid Energy was legally in charge of the mine but would be wound up as a company by March next year, so new entity would be set up and a "decision-maker" would be responsible.

Mine re-entry had become a political matter and Mr Little said it was appropriate that he as minister took responsibility.

He said it was not clear whether legislation would be needed to exempt the new entity it from health and safety laws to enable manned re-entry.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs