Was it ‘Murder at Pike River Mine’? Read this and you be the judge? Follows this article…)
Key said this afternoon he believed the receivers had sufficient cash to cover the company’s legal costs during the inquiry into the series of explosions which claimed 29 lives, and he was ”disappointed” they had asked the Government for help.
”We would contest the view that they can’t afford to actually pay for legal representation if they want it.
”From our analysis, they had $10.9 million before they went into receivership. They’ve spent about five or six million, so we think they’ve got four to five million dollars left.
”If they want to fund representation they can. It’s not an adversarial court, it’s an inquiry process and our view is the company’s got resources to actually pay its own legal bills if it wants to.”
The Government has funded legal representation for the 29 families of the dead miners and paid for legal assistance for the company’s contractors and workers.
He said the company would be expected to answer questions if called by the commission, which had extensive subpoena powers, whether or not it had legal representation.
At a preliminary hearing for the commission in Greymouth yesterday, Pike River Coal lawyer Stacey Shortall said the company could not afford to fully participate in the inquiry.
She said the company did not have the money to prepare the documents and witness statements the commission had requested and would have legal representation at only some hearings.
Pike River receiver John Fisk told The Press the situation was ‘difficult’, but the company’s priority was preserving its ‘limited resources’ for secured creditors.
The company would still make its executives, including former chief executive Peter Whittall, available to the commission, Fisk said.
Commission chairman Justice Graham Panckhurst told Shortall the commission expected ”active involvement” from the company, particularly in phase three of the inquiry, which would focus on what caused the explosion that killed the men.