Pike River families welcome Ardern

Anna Osborne holds aloft a photograph of her husband Milton, who perished in the Pike River Mine...
Anna Osborne holds aloft a photograph of her husband Milton, who perished in the Pike River Mine disaster, after the signing of the cross-party deal, to re-enter the mine. Photo: NZ Herald / Mark Mitchell

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern’s campaign has taken her to the region renowned as the birthplace of the Labour Party, where she was given the blessing of the families of those who died in the Pike River Mine explosion.

Ms Ardern met family members at the Pike River memorial on the West Coast yesterday to restate her commitment to re-enter the mine in which 29 miners died following explosions in 2010.

‘‘After all this time, the least we can do is the right thing,’’ she told them.

In the rain at the memorial, Ms Ardern told the families of her commitment in the first 100 days of a Labour government to set up a Pike River recovery agency and appoint a minister charged with effecting re-entry.

Anna Osbourne, whose husband, Milton, was among those killed, said she was hoping for a change of government to ensure the re-entry went ahead.

‘‘We’ve had lies, we’ve had broken promises, so I’m hoping for a change of government,’’ Ms Osbourne said.

The National government has refused to attempt a manned reentry because its expert analysis said it would be too risky.

That was disputed by the families, who obtained their own expert analysis.

Families spokesman Bernie Monk also said Ms Ardern had his support, saying while he did not expect her to wave a magic wand and fix everything, the families believed re-entry was safe.

Ms Ardern was given a pounamu pendant called Ataahua Pou [beautiful pillar].

Earlier in the day, Ms Ardern visited Nelson to speak to the pupils at Nelson Girls’ College and to a crowd of more than 400 at a Grey Power function.

She began the latter function by telling the audience her ancestors had settled in Nelson and become the town’s first bakers.

‘‘I’m told they did a roaring trade in bread and ginger beer.’’

She also used that meeting to strike back at the National Party, accusing it of running a ‘‘dishonest campaign’’ by claiming Labour was planning to introduce several new taxes.

Her day ended on a more convivial note with a visit to Blackball to meet the locals at Formerly The Blackball Hilton.

Blackball is regarded as the birthplace of the Labour Party, which was formed following the 1908 miners’ strike.

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