5 Mar 2021

Whakaari eruption: 13 defendants make first appearance in court

2:00 pm on 5 March 2021

The 13 parties charged by Worksafe in the aftermath of the deadly Whakaari eruption have made their first appearance in court.

Whakaari White Island eruption as seen from tourist boat

Whakaari White Island eruption as seen from tourist boat. Photo: Supplied / Lillani Hopkins

There were 47 people on the volcano when it erupted on 9 December 2019, most of them international tourists.

Twenty-two people were killed and many others were seriously injured.

Last December, just before the first anniversary of the disaster, Worksafe announced it was laying charges over alleged health and safety breached in the lead-up to the eruption.

Lawyers for the 10 organisations and three individuals charged appeared before Judge Evangelos Thomas in Auckland District Court this morning, some of them by audio-visual link.

Judge Evangelos Thomas during the first court appearance of the 13 parties charged in relation to the Whakaari eruption disaster.

Judge Evangelos Thomas in Auckland District Court Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Those charged are: the island's owner Whakaari Management Limited and its directors Andrew, James and Peter Buttle; GNS Science; the National Emergency Management Agency; White Island Tours Limited; Volcanic Air Safaris Limited; Aerius Limited; Kahu NZ Limited; Inflite Charters Limited; I D Tours New Zealand Limited; and Tauranga Tourism Services Limited.

No pleas were entered.

Some of the defendants have raised concerns about the fact the charges were filed in Auckland, rather than in Whakatāne.

The next appearance will be in Whakatāne District Court in June.