Tour operators told to pay £6.27m over volcanic eruption

1 March 2024, 03:44

New Zealand Volcano Trial
New Zealand Volcano Trial. Picture: PA

The eruption on White Island killed 22 people in December 2019.

Tour booking agents and managers of a New Zealand island where a volcanic eruption killed 22 people in 2019 have been ordered to pay nearly 13 million NZ dollars (£6.27 million) in fines and reparations.

The holding company of the island’s owners, a boat tour operator and three companies that operated helicopter tours were found guilty of safety breaches at a three-month trial last year.

White Island, the tip of an undersea volcano also known by its Maori name Whakaari, was a popular tourist destination before the eruption.

There were 47 tourists and tour guides on the island when superheated steam erupted on December 9 2019, killing some people instantly and leaving survivors with agonising burns.

“There is no way to measure the emotional harm survivors and affected families have endured and will continue to endure,” Judge Evangelos Thomas said during Friday’s sentencing in a Wellington court.

“Reparation in a case like this can be no more than token recognition of that harm.

“No review of prevailing reparation levels conducted by any other court contemplates emotional harm of the scale and nature that is present in this case. Greater awards are appropriate.”

Previously, a three-month, judge-only trial against 13 groups had seen six plead guilty and six other having charges brought by regulators dismissed.

The final remaining defendant in the trial was Whakaari Management Ltd which was found guilty on one charge in October last year.

Judge Thomas was particularly scathing towards Andrew, James and Peter Buttle, the shareholders of WML, the holding company for the island’s owners, who he said had “appeared to have profited handsomely” from tours to the island, despite the company claiming no assets or a bank account to hold funds.

“This case, like many others, sadly reveals how simply corporate structures can be used to thwart meaningful responses to safety breaches,” Judge Thomas said. “There may be no commercial basis for doing so, but many would argue there is an inescapable moral one.

“We wait to see what the Buttles will do. The world is watching.”

The specific reparation sums awarded to victims and the families of those who died was suppressed for publication by the court.

The penalty for the last remaining defendant, New Zealand scientific agency GNS Science, will be announced later on Friday.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

The Israeli Iron Dome air defence system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran

Israel hails ‘success’ in blocking Iran’s unprecedented attack

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the Middle East is 'on the brink'

'The Middle East is on the brink,' UN chief warns, as Israel approves plan of attack after huge Iranian onslaught

Elections 2024 Media Debates

News organisations urge Joe Biden and Donald Trump to agree to debates

Damien Guerot stepped in in Sydney

Builder who wielded bollard to defend children from rampaging Sydney knifeman says attacker's 'eyes were empty'

The IDF said over 300 weapons were fired by Iran.

Israel approves plan of attack after foiling massive Iran onslaught, as world leaders call for 'stabilisation'

Russia Ukraine War

More civilians die in Ukraine amid warning US aid delays will hamper Kyiv forces

Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy and Paloma Faith join celebrities demanding Government act over Sudan

Dawn Singleton was among six victims of the stabbings

Police officer fiancé of Sydney stabbing victim 'discovered she had been killed after being scrambled to the scene'

The IDF said over 300 weapons were fired by Iran.

Israel says Iran conflict 'not over' and vows to 'collect a price when timing is right', as US urges restraint

Poland Abortion

Polish opponents of abortion march against recent steps to liberalise strict law

Five of the six victims from the stabbing have been named.

Victims of Sydney stabbings named as heartbroken tributes flood in following attack by knifeman who killed six

A demonstrator waves Iranian and Palestinian flags during an anti-Israeli gathering at the Felestin (Palestine) Square in Tehran, Iran

What is the fallout from Iran’s attack on Israel?

Joe Biden has reaffirmed the US's commitment to defending Israel's security.

Biden reaffirms ‘ironclad support' of Israel as he plans G7 meeting to coordinate ‘diplomatic response to Iran attack’

The IDF said over 300 weapons were fired by Iran.

‘Together we will win’: Netanyahu vows to fight off attacks from Iran after over 300 drones and missiles fired at Israel

Israeli's military have fought off a massive Iranian drone and missile attack - downing more than 200 weapons launched by the hostile state with the help of ace RAF pilots.

Israel fights off massive Iran attack - downing over 200 missiles and drones with help of RAF

Plans have been drawn up for an evacuation of Brits from the Middle East. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (l) and protesters outside the British Embassy in Tehran (r)

Brits living in the Middle East could be rescued by the Royal Marines in 'Dunkirk-style' evacuation