New Zealand

The Whakaari / White Island Eruption – From then until now. Video / Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust / 60 Minutes / Provided

By RNZ

A lengthy review is underway to clarify who does what when Whakaari / White Island erupts, just four years after a memorandum was signed confirming responsibilities.

Twenty-two people died after the crater exploded in December 2019, as groups of tourists were visiting.

The island’s owners, the Buttle family, hold the right to restrict or prevent access to the volcanic cone, but Whakaari’s distance offshore means it is not under any city or district council.

Instead, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is automatically the territorial authority for Whakaari and 10 other offshore islands.

Tourists are evacuated from White Island following the volcanic eruption.  Photo / File
Tourists are evacuated from White Island following the volcanic eruption. Photo / File

RNZ revealed last week that Interior Ministry staff had spent months reviewing the minister’s health and safety, civil defense and emergency management duties for the island.

Only to say to him: “It is not clear in the legislation how your role as Territorial Authority is supposed to work in practice.

The department is also reviewing a Whakaari memorandum of understanding signed with the Bay of Plenty Civil Defense Emergency Management Group in 2017, and expects this to take a year.

In a statement, the ministry’s director general for policy and operations, Martyn Pinckard, said the memorandum had worked well for the minister after the 2019 eruption, but would now be refined.

Photo from a video shot from a tourist boat off White Island just as the volcano erupted on December 9, 2019. Photo / File
Photo from a video shot from a tourist boat off White Island just as the volcano erupted on December 9, 2019. Photo / File

“In particular, a review could better define the high-level expectations that the Civil Defense Emergency Management Group and the Minister can reasonably expect from each other; definitions of response and preparedness activities and what each party is responsible for. “

Professor Tom Wilson on Disaster Risk at the University of Canterbury said clarity is vital in managing natural disaster risk.

“It is really important that everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are in managing this risk. So it is essential to make sure that is very clear and that we know who is supposed to do what.”

National Party leader Judith Collins said Minister Mahuta’s response to the Whakaari eruption had been “flawed”.

“There seems to be little understanding as to who is really responsible.”

But Mahuta disputes it.

Aerial view of Whakaari after the volcanic eruption in 2019. Photo / File
Aerial view of Whakaari after the volcanic eruption in 2019. Photo / File

“I have territorial responsibility for Whakaari, but in terms of activities and what happened there, the health and safety elements are handled by other agencies.”

WorkSafe has accused 13 parties of breaking the health and safety rules that led to the tragedy, including tour operators, island owners and two government organizations – GNS Science and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

NEMA pleaded not guilty in Whakatāne District Court last week, but the other defendants have yet to plead.

The WorkSafe and Coronal inquiries are not enough for Judith Collins who still wants a royal commission of inquiry.

“It strikes me as remarkable that the government has so far refused the creation of a royal commission. We’ve certainly had some with Pike River before, [and] with the March 15 killings in Christchurch. “

The government has said that a public inquiry could risk overlapping, duplicating and damaging ongoing investigations and reviews.

The Bay of Plenty Civil Defense Emergency Management Group declined to comment on Whakaari’s MoU.

More about this article: Read More
Source: www.nzherald.co.nz
This notice was published: 2021-06-10 22:27:11

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