Company guilty over NZ volcano deaths

The company held by the owners of White Island/Whakaari volcano in New Zealand has been found guilty of breaching workplace safety laws over the eruption which killed 22 people, including 17 Australians, in December 2019.

Today Auckland District Court ruled Whakaari Management Limited (WML), the holding company of brothers Andrew, James and Peter Buttle, had failed in its duty to minimise the risk to those on the island.

WorkSafe New Zealand laid charges against 13 parties at the end of 2020, under New Zealand’s Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, alleging failures to take adequate steps to prevent serious injury or death.

WML was the final defendant in the criminal trial over the natural disaster.

White Island Tours, Inflite Charters, GNS Science, Volcanic Air Safaris, Aerius Limited and Kahu New Zealand Limited pleaded guilty and await sentencing in February next year, along with WML. They face fines of up to $1.5 million ($AU1.39 million)

Charges were dismissed against the National Emergency Management Agency, ID Tours New Zealand, Tauranga Tourism Services and the Buttle brothers.


Today’s decision marks the end of an 11-week trial, and the largest proceedings brought by the country’s workplace health and safety regulator.

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