24 Dec 2013

Pike River payments begin

2:34 pm on 24 December 2013

Families of men who died in the Pike River coal mine have started receiving payments from a special compensation fund.

The money was offered when charges were dropped against the former chief executive of Pike River Coal, Peter Whittall, in December. The Crown decided that it was unlikely to get a successful prosecution.

Mr Whittall was the only individual charged by the former Department of Labour over the series of explosions at the West Coast mine that began on 19 November 2010.

He and other directors and officers of Pike River Coal offered to make a voluntary compensation payment of $3.4 million to the families of the victims and two men who survived the blast. It is money from the directors' own insurance that would have been spent on a defence.

Bernie Monk, a spokesperson for some of the families, said the money will help some who are struggling but its acceptance does not mean the end of any potential prosecution.

"If we get evidence once we get down the drift and obviously get into the mine workings and find that there's other charges that can be laid, that can still be done."

Radio New Zealand News could not confirm whether further prosecutions are possible or whether the payment of compensation means that legally the matter is at an end.