Eruption of New Zealand’s White Island volcano: the judge clears NEMA

Three years after the eruption of New Zealand’s White Island volcano, a judge handed down a ruling that changes the way the public will look at the tragedy.

A New Zealand judge on Wednesday cleared the nation’s emergency management agency from security breaches related to the 2019 White Island volcano eruption, which claimed 22 lives.

Nearly 50 people, mostly Australian tourists, were on the island, also known as Whakaari, when they burned ash and steam ejected from a volcanic vent.

The eruption killed 22 people and injured 25 others, some of whom sustained horrific injuries.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was among 13 parties charged with violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Regulator WorkSafe New Zealand said the agency failed to properly communicate the risks of an eruption to landowners and the public.

But an Auckland district court judge dismissed the charges against the crown agency.

The agency’s lawyers successfully said the allegation was “completely wrong”.

Judge Evangelos Thomas agreed that the agency cannot be held liable under New Zealand occupational health and safety legislation.

“NEMA did not physically do any work on Whakaari, it did not send workers to Whakaari, it never placed any people on Whakaari,” he said.

“Today’s hearing is not about whether NEMA did its job correctly: it may have, it may not. It is just a question of whether WorkSafe can use this particular law to prosecute NEMA. ”Eleven other parties have pleaded not guilty and will go to trial next year.

Last week, charter airline Inflite admitted errors in its risk assessment. The company was fined NZ $ 227,500 (AU 206,100) and ordered to pay the charges.

Originally published as New Zealand judge clears White Island disaster management agency

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