More than $5 million has been ploughed into WorkSafe's investigation of the Whakaari eruption that killed 22 people.
Between December 2019 and December 2020, WorkSafe spent more than $5.5m investigating the events leading up to the fatal eruption, which has seen 13 parties appear in court facing charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
WorkSafe spent close to $2m on external legal fees, close to $400,000 renting offices in Whakatāne, close to $1.6m on staff wages, $900,000 on consultants, $159,000 on flights, $78,500 on rental vehicles, $202,000 on accommodation, 172,000 on meals and $89,000 on other costs.
WorkSafe general manager business performance, finance and modernisation Allan Frost said the investigation was the most comprehensive and complex that WorkSafe had undertaken.
It included 27 staff members at its peak, including four investigations managers and 16 investigations inspectors. The investigation team also included specialist, legal and support staff.
"The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) does not mandate the length of an investigation," Frost said.
"However, HSWA provides a limitation period for WorkSafe to bring proceedings for an offence."
The proceedings needed to be brought within 12 months of the incident being know to the regulator. This time pressure meant that WorkSafe had to ensure the investigation was resourced adequately as a charging decision had to be reached in that time frame.
Those charged by WorkSafe include seven companies and three individuals.
They are White Island Tours, Whakaari Management and its directors and owners James, Peter and Andrew Buttle, Kahu NZ, The National Emergency Management Agency, GNS Science, Volcanic Air Safari, Aerius Ltd, Inflite Charters, ID Tours and Tauranga Tourism Services.
The tourism companies are facing charges relating to the health and safety of tourists and staff.
Two White Island Tourism guides lost their lives in the eruption and another two were seriously injured.
Kahu Helicopters director Mark Law was one of the pilots who helped rescue people from Whakaari after the eruption. He rescued five people from the island.
WorkSafe has previously stated it did not investigate the rescue and recovery of victims after the eruption. Rather investigations centred on the actions of the parties during everyday operations.
Alleged offending goes as far back as 2016.
Those charged are expected to appear in the Whakatane District Court on June 3.