On Monday 30 November 2020, WorkSafe New Zealand filed charges in the Auckland District Court against 13 parties over the Whaakari/White Island eruption which occurred on 9 December 2019.
The 13 parties charged include 10 organisations and three individuals. Each organisation faces a fine of up to $1.5million. Each individual faces a fine of up to $300,000. WorkSafe is unable to name any parties charged, as the parties have the right to seek name suppression when they first appear in court.
However, GNS Science, National Emergency Management Agency (Civil Defence), Whakaari Management Ltd, Volcanic Air, and White Island Tours have all confirmed they are facing charges. It has also been reported that the three directors of Whakaari Management Ltd have confirmed they are facing charges.
WorkSafe claims the parties failed to meet their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (“the Act”). Nine of the 10 organisations charged face charges of breaching their primary duty as a person conducting a business or undertaking (“PCBU”) to ensure the health and safety of workers and other persons. One organisation faces either that same charge or a breach of their duty as a PCBU who manages or controls a workplace to ensure the workplace does not risk the health and safety of any person.
The three individuals face charges for breaching their duty to exercise due diligence to ensure the PCBU complies with a duty.
WorkSafe has confirmed that it has not taken enforcement action in relation to the rescue and recovery operations carried out by private operators following the eruption.
It is reported that the first court date for this matter is set down for Tuesday 15 December 2020, in the Auckland District Court. GQ will look to provide further insight once more information is released.
For WorkSafe New Zealand's media release on the charges see here.
*The matter has been adjourned until March 2021.