WorkSafe New Zealand welcomes the guilty pleas from White Island Tours Limited today to charges laid under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, related to their tour operations at Whakaari.
“The significance of these pleas can’t be understated. The survivors and the families of those tourists and workers who died or were seriously harmed will carry this impact for the rest of their lives. They are always at the front of our minds,” says WorkSafe Chief Executive Phil Parkes.
“We hope the decision of White Island Tours will provide some assurance to the survivors and family and whānau of those who passed that those who had a duty to ensure their safety and failed to do so are being held to account.”
“Those who travelled with White Island Tours and were on Whakaari when it erupted included family groups, couples and friends travelling together. We remember everyone who was impacted by Whakaari,” says Mr Parkes.
Of the 22 people who died, 19 were customers of White Island Tours and two were employees.
A further 19 customers and two employees were present and suffered injury.
At the time of the eruption there were three White Island Tours boats either at the island or returning from the island.
“WorkSafe charged White Island Tours in relation to its failure to conduct adequate risk assessments and implement controls to ensure risk of serious injury and death to tourists and workers was reduced,” says Mr Parkes.
“White Island Tours has also acknowledged it failed to ensure tourists were fully informed of the hazards and risks associated with visiting Whakaari before taking them there.”
There are now three parties which have pleaded guilty to health and safety failings related to trips to Whakaari.
- WorkSafe did not investigate the rescue and recovery of victims following the eruption. On those matters, no enforcement action has been taken.
- White Island Tours Limited entered guilty pleas at the Whakatane District Court on Thursday 15 June 2023.
- White Island Tours Limited was charged under Section 36(1)(a), 36(2), 48(1) and (48)(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
- Failing to comply with a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Failing to comply with a duty to ensure the health and safety of other persons so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Carries a maximum penalty of a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.