New Zealand Publicizes Fees in Lethal White Island Volcano Eruption

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Almost a year after the death of a fatal volcanic eruption that killed 22 people on New Zealand’s White Island, the country’s labor protection agency has indicted a number of organizations and individuals over their role in the disaster.

In a televised address on Monday, Phil Parkes, director of regulator WorkSafe, said the 13 parties – including organizations, government agencies and three individuals – had failed to meet their obligations and were facing charges in court.

“This deeply tragic event was unexpected, but that does not mean it was unpredictable and operators have a duty to protect those in their care,” said Parkes. “The victims – both workers and visitors – all had a reasonable expectation that they could go to the island, knowing that the organizations involved had done everything possible to ensure their health and safety.”

The organizations are being prosecuted with a maximum penalty of $ 1.5 million, approximately $ 1 million, while the three are being fined as executives of a company and with a maximum fine of approximately $ 210,000 for their role in the disaster will. The first hearing is scheduled for December 15th.

The charge is unusual: under the government-run system of involuntary accident compensation known as the Accident Compensation Corporation system, people in New Zealand generally have little remedy for an accident caused by negligence, no matter how serious the accident is Although WorkSafe’s 13 companies have not been publicly named, two government agencies, GNS Science and the National Emergency Management Agency, have confirmed they are among the defendants. GNS Science monitors volcanic activity. If they are found to be liable, the two authorities pay fines to the government and ultimately pass the costs on to taxpayers.

The volcano, also known by its Maori name Whakaari, erupted on December 9th last year. At that time, 47 people, including tour groups and their guides, were on the island for a glimpse of the edge of New Zealand’s geological activity. Those affected included children and retirees.

After the disaster, some asked why these tourists were allowed to visit the site of an active volcano. Volcanologists had long warned White Island could be a disaster, while GeoNet, the agency that oversees geological activity in New Zealand, reported increased activity in the weeks leading up to the eruption and raised the warning level to 2 from a possible 5.

Tours to the remote island have now been suspended, despite requests to resume under new security protocols.

At the time of the outbreak, tours were being conducted under an agreement between the family who own the island and some operators that come under the jurisdiction of what are known as the Adventure Activities Regulations, which require a safety audit for companies that “deliberately expose the participant to a serious one Risk to his or her health and safety that must be managed by the provider of the activity. “

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