Pike River Agency, families, united in views on re-entry stall

The Government, Agency and families involved in the Pike River Mine re-entry are all on the same page concerning the 'safety first' message which halted today's re-entry.

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The funding for the re-entry has been costed at $36 million. Source: Breakfast

Pike River Recovery Agency is standing by its decision to stall the mine re-entry, saying a process of elimination must be followed to ensure safety.

A three-man search team was due to enter the drift today, however a safety issue means work to re-open the site has been stalled and entry will have to be delayed.

Unexpected and unexplained oxygen readings were reported by the atmospheric monitoring systems in the Pike River Mine on Wednesday.

Dinghy Pattinson, who was to lead the expedition, told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast that over the next few days, a process of elimination will be followed.

“Anybody that enters that mine has to know it’s a safe environment, that’s why we did what we did yesterday,” he said.

“Over the next few days we will just work through a process of elimination and determine where that comes from. It might be something quite simple but we just have to go through that process to determine that.”

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The minister in charge of the re-entry says the $36million budget is sufficient. Source: Breakfast

Meanwhile, the Minister Responsible for Pike River re-entry, Andrew Little said it was the right decision.

He told Breakfast that he had said from the outset that safety had to come first.

Better monitoring systems have now enabled a safer entry process and while is has been a disappointing outcome for many today, Mr Little said the families affected were “totally understanding.”

“We met with a lot of the families last night and they are in remarkably good spirits, they totally understand and accept what has happened," he said.

“Today is an opportunity to go back up to the mine site and for those families to see what has happened, the gear that is on site and get a bit of a technical briefing about what has happened to date and what has happened in the last 24 hours and what the prognosis might look like,” Mr Little said.

He said the extra cost caused by the delay will be “marginal.”

“We got some extra funding last year and we still have the total budget of roughly $36 million dollars.

“This is just a process now of using the staff we have got and we have our external experts as well - just analysing information so we can make a judgment call about how we respond to the information we are getting from the monitoring points at the moment,” he said.

Mr Little gave credit to the families of the victims, saying they are “amazing people and an “amazing community.”

Pike River widow, Anna Osbourne, who also helped lead the fight for the re-entry told Breakfast it was a slight “glitch” in the works yesterday but she is confident the re-entry will still happen.

“I’m still going forward with a smile on my face knowing this is going to happen, we are entirely grateful for all the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes to date,” she said.

She said if the agency had not halted the re-entry operation, those scheduled to go in could be in the same situation as the victims.

“We know mining is a pretty unpredictable industry and we also know this can be done and it can be done safely,” she said.

“They made the absolute right call yesterday when the atmosphere wasn’t quite at the right condition to proceed.”

She said the $36 million is a small price to pay for a life.

“My husband was denied from coming home from the mine that night, along with his 28 brothers in the mine. How can you put a cost on that?”

She said she hopes the taxpayer understands that New Zealand has to improve its health and safety.

“The statistics in New Zealand for workplace injuries as well as deaths is absolutely appalling, so I actually think this is money well spent – to find out what happened and to prevent it from happening again.”

She said laws needed “toughening up” so that everyone is guaranteed their right to return home to their loved ones each day.