Whakatane-based business White Island Tours got $150,000 from the Government's Covid-19 wage subsidy employer scheme for 36 workers.
Work and Income's web site shows the state grant to the business which in December took a group to Whakaari/White Island when the volcano erupted, resulting in 21 deaths.
But the business said it is just getting what it is entitled to under the support package for businesses suffering during the alert level 4 lockdown.
"Like thousands of other companies throughout New Zealand, we have received assistance under the Government's wage subsidy so that we can continue to support our staff. The details of the funds and the number of employees is a matter of public record," a White Island Tours spokesperson said today.
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Although tourists are no longer taken to Whakaari/White Island, the spokesperson indicated there was far more to the business than that.
"Tours to Moutohorā Island resumed in mid-January, however, as with all tour operations in New Zealand, they ceased when the country went into lockdown," the spokesperson said.
Shane Jones, Regional Economic Development Minister, said: "The fact that they had fatalities as a consequence of that business is being investigated. White Island Tours has to account to themselves for dipping into that dough and I will let the public judge whether they're right or wrong."
To qualify for the grant, a business must suffer a 30 per cent decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, when compared with the same month last year, and
that decline is related to COVID-19.
On December 9, the tour business owned by Ngati Awa Group took 47 people to the island with its active volcano, 48km out to sea.
For several weeks before, that volcano had been showing signs of unrest with volcanic tremors and sulphur dioxide gas at the highest levels since 2016, indicating that an eruption was more likely to occur.
Although White Island Tours has not taken tourists to that island since the fatal December 9 tour, it has other many aspects to its operation and staff continued to work there till last month's alert.
The business operates accommodation, which it advertises as "nestled between the Whakatāne River and a pōhutukawa tree-lined escarpment lies White Island Rendezvous." That 4.5 star motel is aimed at business and tourism travellers and says the motel is in a quiet location, minutes walk from Whakatāne's shopping and restaurants.
"White Island Rendezvous is the only motel accommodation in Whakatāne to boast its own onsite café – a favourite amongst locals," it says.
The business is also advertising tours to Moutohorā/Whale Island are $99/adult and $59/children.