The Government will fund a plan to re-enter and explore the main tunnel leading up to the rockfall at the Pike River coalmine.
Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges made the announcement this afternoon, putting the estimated cost of the plan at $7.2 million.
Families of the 29 men killed in the mine nearly three years ago were briefed this morning.
Miner Rowdy Durbridge, whose son, Daniel Herk, 36, was killed, said outside the meeting: "No-one is doing cartwheels, but it's one of the most positive meetings we've had."
He said it felt like it was coming "three years too late".
The decision follows approval in principle of the re-entry plan risk assessment by the Solid Energy board.
"Our criteria are that any re-entry into the tunnel up to the rockfall is safe, technically feasible and financially credible," Bridges said.
"Safety is paramount and the high hazards unit of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has reviewed the plan and is comfortable with it.
"This is a highly complex and technical operation and it will be carefully managed in stages, with a risk assessment undertaken at each stage.
"Ensuring the safety of workers is an absolute bottom line for the Government and Solid Energy."
Bridges said bad weather could hold up the plan, with hundreds of helicopter flights required to drop material into the mine.
He said the chance of finding bodily remains in the tunnel was "slim".
The plan announced today does not cover entry into the main mine workings, which are blocked by the rockfall.
"The Government cannot comment or speculate about re-entering the main mine until the tunnel re-entry has been successfully achieved," Bridges said.
West Coast-Tasman Labour MP Damien O'Connor said this morning that all the families of the Pike River victims wanted was to know was if there were any bodies that could be recovered, or anything which could be learn from getting back into the tunnel - the drift.
"All the people I've spoken to for quite some time now have said it's quite possible to get back into the drift," he said.
"I think the issue for Solid Energy board and for the prime minister is once they've got back in there, what next? But there's a moral responsibility to do everything possible to get back into the drift, and it can be done without huge risk."
O'Connor said it was not for him to say whether a recovery team could get into the rest of the mine.
"It's a huge technical challenge, but one step at a time, that's all the families have asked for, and recovery of the drift can take place, as was originally explained over 18 months ago, on a staged process."
The families were frustrated by how long it had taken to this point.
"It has been a long time; it's been an agonising wait," he said.
"I don't think they've been unrealistic at any point with their expectations."
- © Fairfax NZ News