Families might learn of safety plans

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012

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The prime minister may tell Pike River families next week how the Government will implement 16 recommendations by the royal commission into the November 2010 mining tragedy.

A spokeswoman for John Key confirmed on Thursday he and attorney-general and acting labour minister Chris Finlayson would visit Pike families next Thursday in Greymouth.

"The prime minister will be meeting the families privately and it's inappropriate at this stage to comment on what may or may not be discussed," she said.

However, Finlayson said in Parliament on Wednesday that Pike families would be given a "detailed implementation plan" by Christmas of how the Government would implement all recommendations.

"As I told the families in Greymouth a couple of weeks ago, we will have implemented the recommendations by the end of 2013.

"A detailed implementation plan is just about completed. It will be provided to the Pike River families, in the first instance, before Christmas, and then will be publicly released," Finlayson said.

Key wrote to Pike families this week about his plans to visit them next Thursday, reiterating his apology made in Wellington at last month's release of the report.

The report blamed regulatory failures by the then labour department for partially contributing to the tragedy at the underground West Coast mine, which killed 29 men.

The report prompted then-labour minister Kate Wilkinson to resign from that portfolio.

Bernie Monk, spokesman for most Pike families, said yesterday it was unclear why Key was visiting.

However, re-entry into the mine's 2.3km tunnel was at the top of the families' agenda to discuss with him, he said.

When Key last visited the families in October, he assured them he would get his experts to assess any re-entry proposals put forward by the families.

In his letter this week, he said the Government would contribute funds to efforts to re-enter the mine's tunnel if a "safe, technically feasible and financially credible" plan was developed.

Monk, who lost his son Michael, 23, in the blast, hoped Key's experts would assess the new re-entry plans before next week's meeting.

The families' international experts had offered to return to New Zealand to help implement their re-entry plan.

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