National Party now supports Pike River Mine re-entry, but insists it's not a U-turn

The National Party has had a change of heart over its view on the Pike River Mine re-entry.

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MP Mark Mitchell has confirmed the party won’t bar re-entry even If National regains control of Parliament. Source: 1 NEWS

National Party MP Mark Mitchell has confirmed the party now supports the re-entry effort next month and won't reverse the policy if the party wins re-election.

Twenty-nine men died in 2010 when an explosion occurred in the mine.

However, the incident soon became a political battleground.

The families have long been at odds with the National Party over the issue. The Government at the time eventually refused their requests for a manned re-entry and at one point tried to seal the drift.

"Having had a pretty good look at these thorough assessments over the last few years of the risks, it's my view that going in there would be unsafe," said Prime Minister Bill English in 2017.

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Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little gave more details on the plan. Source: 1 NEWS

But this week there has been a breakthrough.

Mr Mitchell met with some of the Pike River families at Parliament.

"Their attitudes have changed. They seem to be all on board with the recovery of the drift which, totally amazed me," says Pike River family member Rowdy Durbridge. "It seems to be a complete turnaround." 

Mr Mitchell says it was a positive meeting but denies it's a change in the party's policy.

"We've always said, and our position is still very clear, that the advice that we've had is that it's just far too dangerous to re-enter the mine. We've always said that if the advice had changed around re-entry into the drift then we would support that," he says.

The families say it's been a long road to get to this point.

"Overjoyed. I couldn't describe to you in words how it feels," says Mr Durbridge. "I think it's a fine example to the rest of New Zealand not to give up and to keep going if what you believe in is right." 

Eight and a half years on, the drift will be re-entered on May 3rd.