Whakatāne District Council staff have met with Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to discuss the district's ongoing recovery from last year's eruption at Whakaari/White Island and the Awatarariki managed-retreat process.

Chief executive Stephanie O'Sullivan told the risk and assurance committee last week that the eruption continued to impact the council's "business as usual", particularly in some key teams.

She said the council had suffered financial, personal and work-related impacts through its assistance with response and recovery which by law it had to do.

Councillor Lesley Immink asked if the council had business interruption insurance and said it might be time to reconsider its level of involvement.


She said while social impacts might continue to be felt for some time, ongoing economic impacts were likely only to be felt by White Island Tours, not the wider community.

O'Sullivan said the council could only claim insurance if it had damaged assets, which it did not. "This is a unique situation," she said.

"Typically to claim insurance a council would need damaged assets, but we do not have that. The issues we are facing are the soft, invisible things and this is something we will be pursuing with Nanaia (Mahuta).

"We will also be asking her, as she is the territorial authority for White Island, to take responsibility for the island.

"We will be briefing Nanaia this afternoon on the unique set of challenges we are facing."

Deputy mayor Andrew Iles asked what the council would be doing to improve its communication to ratepayers on the challenges it was facing in meeting its legal obligations while responding to the disaster.

O'Sullivan said there would be some community engagement and communication put out soon through avenues such as the free Eastern Bay Life newspaper.

Iles said the council would need to look at other avenues too, as not everyone in the district received Eastern Bay Life.


"This was clear when we began installing the water meters in Taneatua," Iles said.

"Everyone thought we were after more money but were appeased after I went around and spoke with them one-on-one."

Immink asked for a "ballpark figure" on what the Whakaari disaster had cost the council.

O'Sullivan said she estimated it would be "in excess of half a million".

"This is both direct and indirect costs," she said.

"The cost to date is ongoing."

Following the committee meeting O'Sullivan, mayor Judy Turner and senior council staff met with Mahuta.

Council manager communications and engagement Alexandra Pickles said the group spoke with the minister on a range of matters pertaining to the Whakaari response and ongoing recovery project.

"The minister was also briefed on the Awatarariki managed retreat process, for which the Department of Internal Affairs is a key funding partner," Pickles said.

"Council is very grateful for her ongoing leadership and commitment of time."