Volcano owners wish to grant scientists access to island

DEEP SEA: An ocean bottom electromagnetic sensor being deployed near Whakaari.

Diane McCarthy

THE owners of Whakaari-White Island want to grant GNS access to the volcano and would do so immediately if they were legally able to, their lawyer says.

James Cairney, barrister for Whakaari-White Island owners Andrew, James, and Peter Buttle, has responded to statements from Whakatāne Mayor Victor Luca that not allowing monitoring of the volcano is putting the public at risk.

Dr Luca told Local Democracy Reporting last week that the Buttle’s company, Whakaari Management, was the owner of “a potential time bomb” that would affect everybody if a major eruption occurred.

Whakatāne Mayor Victor Luca. Photo supplied

He spoke about the potential for ash to cover the mainland threatening lives and livelihoods.

“If they’re not monitoring that risk, that’s not fair. I don’t care who owns it,” he said.

The Buttle brothers are shareholders in Whakaari Management, which is appealing a guilty verdict on health and safety offences for allowing people on the island, following the December 2019 eruption that resulted in the deaths of 22 people.

Mr Cairney said the mayors had not raised this concern with the Buttles but the family had had discussions with GNS to try and resolve the issue.

“[The Buttles] are not allowing anyone to access the island, due to the risks to people on the island.

“The family’s company (that granted access) was found guilty at trial for allowing access to the island. The matter is under appeal.

“Whereas the family think that GNS should be able to go to Whakaari and manage the risks to their staff themselves, following the court decision, the family are not sure they are allowed to let GNS do that.

“They consider that, until the legal matter is sorted, they must assume to have responsibility for the safety of people who they permit to go to the island, and thus cannot allow people to go to the island.

“The family would love to grant GNS access and would do so immediately if they were legally able to allow them to go.”

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