Whakaari eruption: Defendants to face trial in 2023

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Fri, 22 Oct 2021, 2:17PM
White Island Aerial view after the volcanic eruption. (Photo / George Novak)
White Island Aerial view after the volcanic eruption. (Photo / George Novak)

Whakaari eruption: Defendants to face trial in 2023

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Fri, 22 Oct 2021, 2:17PM

By Sarah Robson, RNZ

The 13 defendants accused of health and safety breaches in the lead up to the deadly Whakaari eruption will go to trial in 2023.

There were 47 people on the volcano when it erupted in 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 against 13 organisations and individuals.

Those charged were: 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.

All defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Whakatāne Hospital staff reflect on Whakaari one year on. Photo / George Novak

Whakatāne Hospital staff reflect on Whakaari one year on. Photo / George Novak

At a virtual court hearing this morning, Judge Evangelos Thomas set a date for a four-month trial, beginning in July 2023.

He said delays and pressure on the courts caused by Covid-19 meant it was unlikely the trial could be held any earlier.

It's not yet been decided where the trial will be held, but there will be a hearing on this in February, in Whakatāne District Court.

Options in Auckland, Whakatāne and Tauranga are being looked at.

A further case review hearing will be held in March. That hearing will also be held in Whakatāne.