New Zealand strengthens safety measures in wake of White Island tragedy

The New Zealand government will look to strengthen regulatory oversight and audit processes relating to the management of natural hazard risks following a review of adventure tourism activities identified that improvements could be made to improve safety.

The move came as the first anniversary of the deadly White Island volcanic eruption was marked earlier this month. On Dec. 9, 2019, the White Island volcanic eruption killed 22 people and injured further 25 people.

The government released on Friday the first stage of the targeted review of adventure activities regulations and the terms of reference into an independent review of WorkSafe’s operations in relation to activities on the White Island, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said in a statement.

“After the terrible event on Whakaari (White Island), the government launched a targeted review of the adventure activities health and safety regime. The review shows that the adventure activities regulatory regime is performing reasonably well, but has identified areas which could be strengthened,” Wood said.

“Post-eruption, WorkSafe evaluated its own role in the regime and is making changes to ensure that it’s administering the adventure activities regime effectively. These include improving support for registration and compliance, improving operational systems, and developing a stakeholder engagement strategy,” he said.

New Zealand’s workplace safety watchdog WorkSafe has laid criminal charges against 10 organizations and three individuals related to the White Island volcanic eruption.

Each of the 10 organizations faces a fine up to 1.5 million NZ dollars (1.07 million U.S. dollars), and the three individuals, who are the owners of the island, each faces fines up to 300,000 NZ dollars (213,786 U.S. dollars).

The White Island, a volcanic island in New Zealand’s North Island, is a famous tourist attraction which people can explore by boat or by helicopter, but after the eruption all tourist trips to the island have been suspended by the authorities. The volcano has erupted many times in recent years. (Xinhua)