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New Zealand’s volcano eruption negligence hearing held over by lockdown

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The hearing for those accused of negligence in their duty of care to visitors to White Island when a volcano erupted in December 2019 has been adjourned until October 21 due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The hearing brought about by WorkSAFE New Zealand against 13 parties had been set for Monday in Whakatane District Court.

The country’s workplace safety watchdog is prosecuting 10 organisations and three individuals, including Inflite Charters, ID Tours, Tauranga Tourism Services, White Island Tours, Kahu NZ, Volcanic Air Safaris and Aerius. The individuals are the owners of White Island — James, Peter and Andrew Buttle.

Massive fines

Each organisation faces a maximum fine of $NZ1.5m and individuals $NZ300,000.

There was a group of 38 from Ovation of the Seas on a day trip to White Island, 48 kilometres from the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, when the volcano erupted. Many died and others suffered horrific burns.

Chief Executive Phil Parkes said the investigation is the largest and most complex ever undertaken by WorkSAFE New Zealand.  

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