29 Nov 2010

Greymouth's schools and shops to close for service

5:32 am on 29 November 2010

Shops, banks and schools in Greymouth will close for at least half a day as the town remembers the Pike River coal miners on Thursday.

Details of the public remembrance service at the Omoto Racecourse were revealed on Sunday.

Only West Coasters will perform the song, haka and music tributes in a service aimed at helping the community find an outlet for its grief.

Extra grandstands are being brought in to hold the crowd of 7000 that's expected and buses will bring people from towns and airports in the region.

Each miner will have a table set up and a military guard with their photo and personal effects.

People at the service will be able to place a symbolic stone or fern frond on each table and organisers will have to find 50,000 of each to ensure everyone can take part.

The Prime Minister and Governor General will attend and dignitaries from overseas are also expected.

Archdeacon Robin Kingston, one of the organisers of the service, says it will be a West Coast affair, even though it's for the nation as a whole.

Prime Minister John Key earlier said it will be a chance for New Zealanders to gather together to remember and mourn the men who lost their lives.

Minister of Police, Judith Collins, met some of the families on Friday and says the occasion will be tough for the mine workers' loved ones.

There was a minute's silence at 3.44pm on Friday, at the Pike River mine, exactly the time the first explosion struck a week ago.

Services in Christchurch and Bay of Plenty

A separate memorial service will be held in the Christchurch cathedral on 6 December.

The Dean, Peter Beck, says details of what that service will involve are being finalised.

Christchurch cathedral holds 1000 people. More mourners will be able to stand in Cathedral Square for the service which begins at 1pm.

A special memorial service will be held in Mt Maunganui at St Peter's church at 10am on Wednesday.

Remembrance books will be available to sign on Monday and Tuesday at St Mary's on Girven Road and St Peters on Victoria Road.

The Mount's Anglican vicar, Reverend Marie Gilpin, says it's an opportunity for people to participate in a time of prayer and vigil and think about what has happened.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union is setting up a fund for the families.

Eleven of those killed were members of the union, including EPMU delegate Blair Sims.

The EPMU Pike River Miners Family Support Trust will collect donations to support the 29 families.

Half of the funds donated will go to the community fund being administered by the Grey District Council, and the other half will be used to establish a dedicated fund for the education of the miners' children.