Families design 'aggressive' plan

FAMILIES of Pike River victims frustrated at the lack of progress in returning the fallen miners' bodies are designing "aggressive" action plans to speed up the recovery process.

The families have been forced to dig into their own pockets to commission independent engineers and experts to find alternate methods of recovering the remains of the 29 miners who died in explosions 15 months ago.

A review, commissioned by the grieving families, has given an agonising three-year time-frame for reaching the dead men.

But the engineers who came up with the review have been told to go away and come back with three alternative options for recovery, which will be presented to "certain interested parties" later this week.

Bernie Monk, a spokesman for the Pike River victims' families, says they feel "let down" by the inactivity which he says "all comes down to money". The Paroa Hotel publican said: "We're still stuck where we were 15 months ago. We should've been down [the mine] six months ago.

"We're not putting up with it anymore and so we're going to be very aggressive towards recovery."

Last week, the families met with engineer Bruce McLean who they have employed, along with their lawyer Nicholas Davison QC.

They were given "three different options" of the best ways to recover the fallen men.

Mr Monk, father of 23-year-old victim Michael Monk, explained: "I can't say what those options are yet. We've sent the engineer away to update his propositions, and later this week we will be in a position to reveal the options to certain interested parties and put the cards on the table.

"We've had enough. We're sick of having to wait for the receivers and for Pike River because they've got nowhere."

Receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers has been brought in to oversee the sale of the troubled mine, which they now say is imminent.

But as the sale drags on, uncertainty remains over who will pay for the recovery deep underground.

Grey Mayor Tony Kokshoorn has been pushing the government to help launch, and invest in to, a trust fund to pay for the recovery.

However, the Pike River families feel uncomfortable about asking for money and are seeking their own way forward.

Mr Monk said: "I really feel gutted that it's been left to us. It shouldn't be up to us to shell money out to get this done but it obviously won't happen unless we do it ourselves.

"We feel embarrassed talking about money because it's not what we're all about - we're all about recovery.

"The whole situation of recovery of our guys is down to money, and Pike River and the receivers haven't got it. They've been relying on the sale of the mine, but we're not happy with that.

"Now that the sale is basically at a standstill, we don't want to hear in a year's time that is still the case."

The Pike River families will next meet on Wednesday where they will discuss their updated options and decide on when to reveal them, Mr Monk says.

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