White Island Tours say they have no immediate plans to push for a resumption of trips to the site of the December 9 volcano tragedy.

Public tours of Whakaari/White Island – an internationally-renowned tourism destination - were ceased after the December 9 tragedy which claimed the lives of 19 people.

The death toll includes hero guide Hayden Marshall-Inman and teenaged Australian tourist Winona Langford – both of whose bodies are yet to be recovered.

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One month on from the disaster, White Island Tours chairman Paul Quinn said no discussions had been held about when, or if, tours might resume.

"We haven't considered any return to White Island or any derivative thereof," Quinn told the Herald.

"We have looked at options excluding White Island. We do tours to Moutohorā which has a Kiwi sanctuary. We will at an appropriate time look to see if that is appropriate.

"In terms of Whakaari/White Island that is some distance down the road."

Paul Quinn, chairman of White Island Tours, says the company's focus is on victims and their families. AP Photo / Mark Baker
Paul Quinn, chairman of White Island Tours, says the company's focus is on victims and their families. AP Photo / Mark Baker

As well as cancelling all tours to White Island, White Island Tours – which is owned by Ngāti Awa Group Holdings - also suspended its tours to nearby Moutohorā/Whale Island after the disaster.

A resumption of tours to the area, including potentially water-based tours which might not take groups on to the island, would have to wait until any changes WorkSafe might make in regards to adventure tourism in the area.

"I am sure that we would need to have a conversation with them about what the expectations would be," Quinn said.

He stressed the priority of White Island Tours management had been on the welfare of its staff and families who had either lost loved ones in the tragedy, or who had family members badly injured in the volcanic eruption.

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In the immediate days after White Island erupted underneath the tour groups on the island, Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner said she wanted tours to continue.

But talking on the eve of the month anniversary of the tragedy, she told the Herald that if tours were resumed then she could understand why changes could be made by operators, including potentially meaning island landings were off limits.

"The decision on this one is very much in the hands of White Island Tours as to what they feel comfortable doing ... whether landing is a future opportunity or not, of if observing from a greater distance may be the better thing," Turner said.

Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner says one future option could see tour groups no longer landing on Whakaari/White Island. Moutohorā/Whale Island is in the background of this photograph. Photo / Alan Gibson
Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner says one future option could see tour groups no longer landing on Whakaari/White Island. Moutohorā/Whale Island is in the background of this photograph. Photo / Alan Gibson

"Who knows how that will play that out. In the meantime I think they are being very mindful of the condition of the island and what the opportunities are, if any."

Turner said she had not had any discussions with Ngāti Awa over White Island since Christmas.

"I guess they will be weighing up that future in that particular aspect of their business endeavours," she said.

Turner said she has previously travelled to Whakaari on a White Islands Tour trip, saying she had been left "very impressed with their attention to safety".

What happened on December 9 was an "unexpected, unanticipated event".

"They [White Island Tours] have always struck me as incredibly safety-conscious people and this is just a crisis that no business ever wants to face."

On December 20 WorkSafe NZ – who has opened a health and safety investigation into the tragedy – "cautioned" anyone considering venturing to the island for "work purposes".

Tourists are cleared from Whakaari / White Island after the devastating eruption on December 9. Photograph / Michael Schade
Tourists are cleared from Whakaari / White Island after the devastating eruption on December 9. Photograph / Michael Schade

It added the removal of maritime and civil aviation exclusion zones around White Island did not mean it was safe for tourism operators to resume business "as usual around the island".

A spokesperson said on Wednesday that WorkSafe had not yet changed its stance on the island.

Advice it was taking included from GeoNet – a collaboration between the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science. GeoNet's latest advisory states there is a 1-2 per cent change of an eruption that could impact the area beyond White Island's vent within any 24-hour period through to Monday, February 3.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has also advised the public not to consume fish, shellfish or crayfish harvested from at least 1km off the White Island coastline due to contaminants in the water.

Meanwhile, Turner said local businesses struggling due to a downturn of business following the disaster would soon be able to apply for financial relief.

Late last month the Government announced a $5 million contingency fund which was available for both the Whakatāne and Westland communities; the latter was hammered by flooding last year.

Focus Live: Government approves $5m fund to help small businesses following White Island eruption

Turner said officials in Whakatāne were in the process of creating an independent panel which would consider pending applications "from those businesses to see if they can be helped keep afloat".

"We are talking about jobs on the line," she said.

Quinn said the White Island Tours board would discuss if it would apply for any assistance at its board meeting next Friday.

"We have committed to paying our staff through to the end of January. One of the issues is do we carry that on for the meantime? We have to look at what qualifies of course ... we have to get a fuller understanding of the details."