Monk denies split from Pike group

Bernie Monk
Bernie Monk

Long-time spokesman for some Pike River families Bernie Monk, who recently resigned from the Families Reference Group, denies a split with the group.

Twenty-nine men died after explosions at the Pike River mine on the West Coast in November 2010. 

Mr Monk is now working more closely with another Pike River parent, Dean Dunbar, who claims that restarting the mine conveyor belt caused the second explosion.

That is at odds with the main drivers of the Family Reference Group, Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse, who are working with the Greymouth-based Pike River Recovery Agency and are firmly focused on the re-entry, scheduled to begin on May 3 this year.

Mrs Osborne yesterday declined to talk about Mr Monk's departure from the group.

However, several sources have told the Greymouth Star that it was because Mr Monk and Mr Dunbar were focusing on the conveyor belt theory.

Mr Dunbar had claimed on national television that footage showed the conveyor belt moving at the portal before explosion debris came out of the mine tunnel, despite police advising that mine experts had concluded the belt was only moved by the force of the explosion.

Mr Dunbar went public again last month and claimed that an electrical cabinet, blown to the surface from inside the mine workings below, had been confirmed as missing by police.

Mr Monk said yesterday there was no split with the other families.

"Dean and I are working doing things on the side, but that's not influenced things."

The re-entry, which the Family Reference Group had worked to secure, was now happening: "That job has been done."

He did not want people to think he was "peed off".

"It's not quite like that. I've a good relationship with the agency, I've never had a fallout with them, and a relationship with the police."

This week Mr Monk was widely reported as saying he had stepped aside from the families group due to a confidentiality agreement over information from police.

Mr Monk did sign the agreement on the same day as the other members of the Family Reference Group.

He later clarified that after signing the agreement, some other family members had told him they were not comfortable with it, and it was important they were able to trust him.

- By Laura Mills

Add a Comment