They’re going back in.
Eight years after 29 men died in a fireball of methane and other dangerous gases in the Pike River Mine explosions, the Government has given the all-clear to go back into the mine to recover the bodies.
And the families of the dead miners this morning hugged and cried at the announcement.
The Minister in charge, Andrew Little says the Government was committed to fulfilling its original promise to the families of the 29 miners and the workers – to do everything practicably possible to re-enter the drift to recover any remains and better understand the cause or causes of the mine disaster.
A number of dangers still remain, but Andrew says all the advice is that re-entry using the existing tunnel of the mine would be by far the safest option.
He says it’ll be an "extraordinarily complex" undertaking, but the process to make it safe had been robust.
He’s satisfied there is now a safe plan for entry and recovery.
“To the Pike River families and to New Zealand, we are returning.”
A number of the Pike River families were present at Parliament this morning when the Minister made the announcement.
Police are working closely with the Pike River Recovery Agency to support its work, including the secondment of a senior detective to the Agency who has now been in the role for several months.
Police will have a dual role regarding re-entry to the drift.
"This involves completion of a scene examination in relation to the original police investigation which concluded in 2013. The other role is management of any processes required on behalf of the Coroner," says a police spokesperson.
"As we have previously stated, the safety of our staff is paramount and Police will now undertake its own risk assessment of the re-entry plan.
"This will determine whether police staff themselves will enter the mine, or if others with the necessary expertise and experience in mine environments can perform certain functions normally undertaken by police while inside the drift."
Any new evidence which is identified would be assessed to determine what, if any relevance it has to the original police investigation.
"We are unable to speculate about future decisions in relation to the investigation at this still very early stage.
"We remain determined to do all we can to provide answers to the families from the police perspective, and we will continue to keep the families informed of our progress and work in support of the Pike River Recovery Agency."