Memorial centre to remember Pike River victims

The New Zealand government will donate $3.5 million towards a new events centre in Greymouth to pay tribute to the 29 men who died in the Pike River Coal tragedy in November.

It will be named the West Coast Memorial Events Centre, to remember the men killed in the explosions that ripped through the underground coal mine, as well as the victims of other West Coast mining disasters.

Economic development minister David Carter told the New Zealand Herald the centre will hopefully help to rebuild the economy on the West Coast, which suffered significantly following the disaster.

"The Pike River tragedy had a terrible human cost,” he told the Herald.

"In addition to the loss of lives, there was also a significant economic impact as a result of the mine’s closure.”

"We hope this new events centre will go some way towards helping the local community by creating job opportunities through its construction, including for firms directly affected by the closure of the mine.

"It will also provide a much-needed community facility."

The remainder of the $5 million needed to build the centre will be contributed by organisations on the West Coast and the Grey District Council.

Carter said the New Zealand federal government’s partnership with the local community has helped them understand their needs.

"We worked together looking at solutions to support the economy and create new jobs in the region.

"The concept of the events centre was the one the local community felt most strongly would create jobs for the people affected by the mine’s closure, and provide an enduring memorial to West Coasters who have lost their lives in mining tragedies."

Bernie Monk, spokesman for the families said the centre will be a positive contributor to the economy on the West Coast, but the priorities of the families is still recovering the bodies of the miners who lay entombed in the mine.

"I’m all in favour of it because the town’s in desperate need for something like that – anything like that. I’ll even go down and give them a hand.

"But it’s not softening me up. Nobody’s going to butter me up any other way but getting those men out of the mine."

Mr Carter said Government has worked in partnership with the local community on the project.

The families have been asking for a the bodies of their loved ones to be recovered since they were pronounced dead following the second “horrific” explosion that ripped through the mine.

An inquest into the tragedy found the men would have died in the first few minutes following the explosion, but since then, the levels of toxic gases inside the mine have been too high and unpredictable for recovery teams to enter.

Receivers have announced plans to sell the mine, and the families remain insistent that any company who purchases it makes a recovery effort a priority.

Solid Energy has made its intentions to bid on the mine known, and says it is the only company with enough West Coast mining experience to make Pike River economically viable again and retrieve the bodies of victims.


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