WorkSafe clarifies Whakaari/White Island charges

The Whakaari/White Island volcano erupted on the December 9 with 47 people on the island and 22 people lost their lives. Photo: NZ Police.

Following the launch of an online petition calling to stop the prosecution of two helicopter pilots involved the Whakaari/White Island rescue mission, WorkSafe says it has not laid any charges in relation to the rescue and recovery mission.

New Zealand’s primary workplace health and safety regulator has released a statement to clarify its position in relation to charges laid following an investigation.

Earlier this week, WorkSafe confirmed that 13 parties would face charges related to the tragedy.

An online petition has since been launched called ‘Stop The Prosecution of the Helicopter Pilots Who Saved Lives on Whakaari/White Island’.

The petition on is aimed directly at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and concerns two helicopter pilots based in the Bay of Plenty.

Mark Law, CEO of Whakatane-based Kahu NZ, and Tim Barrow, Director/Chief Helicopter Pilot of Rotorua’s Volcanic Air, have both spoken this week of charges they say were laid at their door by WorkSafe regarding the events of last year.

The Whakaari/White Island volcano erupted on the December 9 with 47 people on the island.

Since then, 22 people either died on the island or as a result of injuries suffered during the eruption. Read here to see original footage of the eruption.

Several more were severely injured.

WorkSafe says the actions of any helicopter companies in the rescue and recovery process were outside the scope of its investigation.

“We wish to clarify that WorkSafe has not laid any charges in relation to rescue and recovery operations immediately following the Whakaari/White Island eruption in December last year.

“We have publicly stated that our investigation’s focus was on the period leading up to the eruption.

“The actions of any helicopter companies in the rescue and recovery process were outside the scope of our investigation.

“We noted that post-eruption actions would be subject to other proceedings including a coronial inquest.

“We also wish to make clear that WorkSafe did not prevent the rescue and recovery operation.”

ow have since waived anonymity, confirming that their respective companies are among those charged.

Law and Barrow were two of the helicopter pilots who responded to the incident and have been credited for their life saving efforts.

The pair, along with several other commercial contractors, co-ordinated a rescue operation as emergency services deemed the area unsafe.

The petition was set up on on Thursday afternoon by Ned Dawson of Auckland and has already received over 30,000 signatures.



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Posted on 06-12-2020 13:23 | By morepork

If what you say is right, then I agree there is a case to answer and the big question would be: "Why weren’t the people told BEFORE going to the island?" Even so, it is a tragedy and we can’t get them back.

@ morepork

Posted on 06-12-2020 08:11 | By

I agree with you morepork however it has come to light that a proper warning of the high risk of an eruption and that the tour would be shortened because of it wasn’t given until on the island and I see that 1 fact as negligence. Definitely a totally natural event with a tragic ongoing ending.

If it is about...

Posted on 05-12-2020 13:25 | By morepork

... charging Companies because they took people there, that’s pointless and wasteful. People went there because they wanted to; nobody was dragged kicking and screaming to the island. Provided the proper appraisal, warnings, equipment, and procedures were in place (there was no criminal negligence) then there should be no witch-hunt or attempts to monetize the aftermath of what was a tragic natural event.

WorkSafe has gone crazy

Posted on 05-12-2020 12:32 | By SML

in it’s bureaucratic bungling and instead it should be Worksafe’s lack of action in ensuring all operators were acting correctly that should be examined. Why subject these brave heroes to HUGE expense to defend themselves in court? If this goes ahead, who will be prepared to put their lives and livelihoods on the line next time there’s a major disaster? Remember Pike River (where they stopped trained rescue teams going in), the CTV building collapse (where they have not charged the architects), and more. The whole rescue service process is on the line here, and these heroes should not be facing massive further expense in court - that’s just diabolically unfair! One has already laid off all staff, sold buildings, etc - this is the sort of thing that causes suicides - utter bureaucratic BULLDUST!!


Posted on 05-12-2020 09:07 | By

This is just going to bleed peoples banks dry !!!! Why not charge DOC !!! And work safe should be charged also as that’s there job to insure such things are safe !!!