19 Nov 2017

Pike River families get keys to mine gate on 7th anniversary

7:04 pm on 19 November 2017

The minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry, Andrew Little, has handed the key to the main gate on the road leading up to the mine, to the families of those who died.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the Pike River Mine disaster in which 29 people were killed.

The handing over of the key was a symbol of the new government's commitment to re-enter the mine and retrieve the bodies.

"We are taking control and it's my honour to present to the family's representatives, Anna, Sonya and Bernie, the key to the gate, it's kind of like the freedom of the city," said Mr Little.

In response the families of some of the men who died have lifted a year-long blockade of the road leading up to the mine.

The families are also holding a private memorial service at the mine's portal entrance and attending a public service later in Blackball.

This week some family members will meet with officials from MBIE to discuss more fully a re-entry plan.

Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Ben was killed, visits the mine every year, and said it was a sad place but it now held hope.

Ms Rockhouse said marking the anniversary was important because it reminded people of what happened and ensured the 29 men would not be forgotten.

"We don't have to fight anymore and that in itself is unreal, when we go up there today I will be thinking that sometime soon hopefully someone will be going into the mine.

"On that day I'm sure some of the families will be here to watch, it will be a massive milestone for us, it will be exciting but it will also be incredibly sad because the thought of what they might find is sobering," Ms Rockhouse said.

Mr Little is due to present Cabinet tomorrow with his proposals for what the Pike River Re-entry Agency could look like.

Pike River

The Pike River Mine, where 29 men were killed by an explosion inside the mine. Photo: RNZ

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