3 Jun 2021

Whakaari/White Island eruption: 13 parties charged to appear in court

6:03 am on 3 June 2021

The 13 parties charged by Worksafe in the aftermath of the deadly Whakaari eruption are due back in court today.

White Island. (file image).

White Island. (file image). Photo: alanpicard07/123RF

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

A two-day administrative hearing begins this morning in Whakatāne District Court.

It is likely pleas will be entered. There will also be discussions about where any future hearings or trials should be held.

The charges were laid in Auckland District Court, but at an earlier hearing in March, lawyers for some of the defendants said the case should be transferred to Whakatāne.

That was because many of the defendants were based there and it is closest to where the alleged offending occured, the lawyers said.

Judge Evangelos Thomas said the views of the Whakatāne community would be taken into account in any decision about where the case should proceed.

In anticipation of significant interest from the public in the two-day hearing, an overflow room has been set up for locals, because space is limited in the courtroom.

Overseas victims will be able to watch the hearing via livestream.

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.

The charges do not relate to events on the day of the eruption or the rescue efforts.

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