20 Jul 2012

Push to reopen Pike River hearings

8:31 am on 20 July 2012

The lawyer for the miners' union says a push to reconvene the Pike River Royal Commission is designed to put pressure on the commissioners.

The commission finished public hearings in April into the disaster at the West Coast coal mine where 29 nine men died in a series of explosions in November 2010.

The lawyer for former Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall has asked it to reconvene, and has also asked for a judicial review should the commission decide not to re-open its hearings.

Tens of thousands of documents, ranging from witness statements to e-mail and government department reports, were sent to the commission which decided who it would and wouldn't hear in public.

Among those are submissions made by three former mine staff who Mr Whitall's legal team want to cross examine.

Mr Whittall's lawyer Stacey Shortall says she should have the right to cross-examine Udo Renk, who worked at the mine during its development stage, and mining engineers Terry Moynihan and Greg Borichevsky.

She also wants reviewed the decision not to release any negative findings to her clients in advance.

However the lawyer for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, Nigel Hampton QC, says natural justice has already been served.

Mr Hampton says Ms Shortall had the opportunity to respond to negative issues as part of the hearings.

He says her application for a judicial review is designed to put pressure on the commissioners to reconvene the hearings.

The commissioners are due to meet next week to decide whether the hearings will be reopened.

May be no need - Monk

A spokesperson for some of the Pike River families, Bernie Monk, says there may not be a need to hold further hearings because the lawyers for all sides have already had the chance to view the new evidence.

However, Mr Monk says he wouldn't be opposed to the hearings reconvening if the commissioners decided it was necessary.