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New Zealand White Island volcano negligence trial set for July 2023

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A case review hearing was held in Whakatane District Court Thursday for the defendants accused of negligence by WorkSAFE New Zealand following the White Island volcano eruption in December 2019.

Passengers from Ovation of the Seas were on a day trip to the island when the volcano erupted. Many died and others suffered horrific burns.

‘Not guilty’ plea

The organisations and individuals accused of health and safety breaches by the country’s workplace safety watchdog pleaded not guilty to a total of 20 charges.

They are the island’s owner Whakaari Management Ltd and its directors Andrew, James and Peter Buttle, GNS Science, the National Emergency Management Agency, White Island Tours Ltd, Volcanic Air Safaris Ltd, Aerius Limited, Kahu NZ Ltd, Inflite Charters Ltd, ID Tours New Zealand Ltd and Tauranga Tourism Services Limited.

WorkSAFE alleges the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences failed to ensure the safety of pilots travelling to and remaining on the island. 

Judge Evangelos Thomas discussed possible trial dates with WorkSAFE’s lawyer and the defendants’ legal counsel who all appeared in court by Zoom meeting links.

Trial to start July 10, 2023

A hearing has been set for the start of the trial on July 10, 2023. However, the trial venue is yet to be decided and there will be a special hearing in the Whakatane District Court on February 8 next year to finalise the matter.

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