15 Nov 2020

Pike River tragedy 10 years on: 'It's been a hard run for the families'

1:31 pm on 15 November 2020

The West Coast community is preparing to mark 10 years since the Pike River mine tragedy.

Grey District's former mayor Tony Kokshoorn

Tony Kokshoorn, former mayor of the Grey District. Photo: RNZ/ Tracy Neal

On 19 November 2010, 29 men were killed in a West Coast coal mine in a methane explosion - their bodies have never been recovered.

Tony Kokshoorn was mayor of the Grey District for 15 years, he said it had been a tough journey.

"In some ways, it seems a long time and in other ways it seems like it just happened yesterday.

"It's been a hard run for the families.

"The one thing I can say, solidarity comes from the four families [that] did stick together ... the country got in behind the West Coast and helped us through that tragedy.'

Kokshoorn said there were a few events planned to mark the day, some staying local while others were heading to Wellington.

He was invited to attend lunch event at the Beehive but had instead opted to stay in the area.

"I'd rather be up at Blackball close to where the miners are.

"I think most of the families are going there but some of the families are going to Wellington and that's great because I think there's a lot of work to be done on health and safety and that type of thing.

"For many of the families being close to where the men lie at the moment is very important," Kokshoorn said.

Over the decade that has passed, he said he and the families had remained in contact.

"We always stay in touch with each other.

"It's been heartening over the years that all families have stayed.

"At times, there's been tension but overall, the families were a tight-knit group and they are working through this together."

A recovery mission is underway and is continuing to make progress with workers now 1980 metres in.

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