Police Minister Stuart Nash is rejecting claims that the authorities' response to the White Island eruption was "Pike River all over again", saying that comparison was "very unfair".

He has also defended the Police's decision to hold off sending a recovery team to the island, telling reporters this morning that it was still an "extremely dangerous situation".

"They [Police] had no idea what they were dealing with and what they're doing is waiting for the right time and the technical information before they can actually even think about going on to the island."

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When criticisms about the search and rescue team were put to him, Nash said it was his understanding that a Police helicopter did fly over this island and saw "no signs of life whatsoever".

Five people have been confirmed dead after the eruption yesterday afternoon.

Eight are still missing and 31 are in hospital.

Police say there are "no signs of life" on the Island and believe anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of Monday's evacuation.

Hayden Marshall-Inman from Whakatane was a guide to White Island and died in the explosion. Photo / Facebook
Hayden Marshall-Inman from Whakatane was a guide to White Island and died in the explosion. Photo / Facebook

The brother of Whakatane man Hayden Marshall-Inman who was killed in the eruption told stuff his family has had no communication with authorities around recovering the bodies.

"It smells like Pike River all over again," he said.

Nash rejected this and said it was a "very unfair" comparison.

But he was full of praise for the independent operators who helped get people off the island.

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"They did a fantastic job under very dangerous circumstances – I take my hat off to them, true heroes".

Meanwhile, National leader Simon Bridges has echoed comments from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that questions will need to be answered around recovery and evacuation.

"But the consensus here is the focus has to be on those who are critically injured and of course what is a recovery mission," she told the AM Show.

Speaking to media this morning, Bridges agreed.

National leader Simon Bridges has echoed comments from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that questions will need to be answered around recovery, and evacuation. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National leader Simon Bridges has echoed comments from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that questions will need to be answered around recovery, and evacuation. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"People will be asking whether it was appropriate for [tourists] to be there in general and at this time when… there was heightened risk."

There would be plenty of other questions as well, he said.

"But for the moment, it's a time of recovering – we are right in the midst of that and so I think it's right to let the recovery happen before the serious questions are asked in earnest."