Whakaari Management Ltd. (WML), a tour licensee to the White Island in New Zealand, has been found guilty of “not minimising risk” during the White Island volcano disaster.
The company faces up to $1.5 million New Zealand Dollars in fines making it the largest of its kind action taken by the country’s regulator – Worksafe NZ.
13 parties were charged with WML being the last to get the verdict. Six people pleaded guilty while another six had their charges dismissed.
The sentencing will take place in February 2024. 22 people died in the eruption that took place on the White Island volcano in December 2019. The death toll is half the number of people who were on the island at that time. 17 of those were tourists from Australia, while three were from the US.
Another 25 people were injured with extensive burns. Tourism on the island has stalled since then and has not resumed. According to local reports, the volcano, known locally as Whakaari, was showing signs of instability for weeks before the eruption. It is said to be New Zealand’s most active volcano and has erupted in some form since 2011.
James, Andrew, and Peter Buttle, the three brothers who own WML and inherited the volcano, had licensed other businesses to run the tours. They were also on trial over an alleged breach of New Zealand’s workplace health and safety legislation but had those charges dismissed last month.
Their lawyer argued that they were merely landowners and had no active control of tours to the island and how they were conducted. The kin of some of the victims welcomed the verdict saying justice was finally delivered at long last.
Source: CNBC TV