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$10 million awarded to Whakaari victims

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The Whakaari White Island eruption killed 22 people. Today, an Auckland court handed out reparations for the victims.
Whakaari White Island eruption

Survivors and the families of victims impacted by the 2019 Whakaari White Island disaster have been awarded $NZ10 million ($AU9.3 million).

A volcanic eruption in December 2019 on the privately owned Whakaari Island killed 22 people, including 17 Australians.

Today, tour operators and the island’s owners were handed compensation orders and penalties in an Auckland court, bringing a long-running legal challenge to a close.

Whakaari White Island eruption

WorkSafe NZ argued a group of tourism operators and Whakaari’s owners failed in their health and safety obligations on the day of the eruption.

Last year, an Auckland court ruled in favour of WorkSafe. It found that Whakaari Management Limited (WML), the island’s owners, didn’t properly assess the risks to tourists of a potential eruption on the island.

The operators were sentenced this week.

The verdict

Friday’s verdict handed fines to multiple tourism operators ranging from around $54,000 to $4.8 million.

Some of the penalties are compensation payments for victims and their families. The majority will be funded by owners WML, and White Island Tours, a company that conducted walking tours on the day of the eruption.

Helicopter operators Volcanic Air Safaris will also contribute to the reparations.

Judge Evangelos Thomas told the court: “22 people lost their lives, the remaining 25 on the island were all injured, most seriously… For those remaining, the suffering has been immense.”

Thomas said the operators had failed in their “blatantly fundamental” obligation to tourists and employees to assess the risk of an eruption.

Justice Thomas said that failure “compromised everything else they did,” and “exposed others to the risk of serious injury and death.”

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