Pike River families confront Key in Greymouth

Prime Minister John Key faces off with Bernie Monk in Greymouth. Photo / Greymouth Star

Prime Minister John Key stopped to talk to the Pike River families at a silent protest today, but did not talk directly to Jo Hall, the mother of Judd Hall who was described as a "feral" by Whaleoil blogger Cam Slater.

The families were not on Mr Key's agenda, but several staged a silent protest outside Development West Coast where he was due to make an announcement.

When he arrived he went to talk to spokesman Bernie Monk and answered questions from Anna Osborne, whose husband died in the mine.

Ms Hall stood silently in the background. She has questioned Key over comments Cameron Slater claimed the Prime Minister said, and which were revealed in the Dirty Politics book after Slater called her son a "feral."

Mr Key did not speak to her directly and it is unclear whether he recognised her. Speaking to media afterwards, Mr Key denied he had told Mr Slater that Ms Hall had screamed at him in meetings with the families.

"It is not true I made any disparaging comments. The only comment I made was that I recognised her."

He said he did not recall her shouting at him in meetings. Speaking afterwards, Ms Hall said she hoped Mr Key's denial was true.

Mr Monk pleaded for help in getting answers from Solid Energy over the latest delay to plans to re-enter the drift. Mr Key said it was up to Solid Energy to make the decisions about safety. He said he did not know what safety issues Solid Energy was still concerned about, but they had a new chief executive and board chair who were still working their way through it.

She said she was frustrated by Solid Energy's repeated delays on work to re-enter the drift, for which it has cited safety concerns and wanted Mr Key to ask more question of Solid Energy. She said she appreciated the Government offering financial support to reenter the mine, but Solid Energy was an SOE.

"He needs to go back and ask them why? Why has this been pushed out again?"

Ms Osborne said afterward she was worried the miners' families were being forgotten by New Zealand. "I want to plead to the nation that they don't forget about us, they don't forget about the Pike River families because sometimes I feel like we have vanished, because people move on. We can't move on. We're still stuck in this rut and we can't move on until we get what we want, and that is our men home."

As Mr Key left, she called out "don't forget about us John."

He replied: "I won't."

By Claire Trevett of the NZ Herald