New Zealand volcano disaster victims awarded US$6m damages

WELLINGTON — The victims and families affected by the 2019 New Zealand volcano disaster, which claimed 22 lives, were awarded total damages of NZ$10 million (US$6 million) on Friday.

The sum must be paid by five companies that transported 47 tourists to the volcanic island in December 2019, the day it erupted. Many of the 25 survivors suffered terrible burns.

In addition to paying out reparations, the islands’ owners, Whakaari Management Limited, along with White Island Tours and helicopter firm Volcanic Air Safaris, who ran tourist trips to the volcano, were also fined.

At Auckland District Court, Judge Evangelos Thomas said the total damages were “no more than a token recognition” of the victims’ suffering.

The group had been “physically, mentally and emotionally” traumatised by the disaster, he said, with many still bearing the physical scars. 

“Your stories have been heartbreaking and inspiring, it has been a humbling privilege to hear them,” Thomas told the victims in court.

He said the exact reparation amounts would be adjusted in some cases, especially in instances where victims had lost parents.

He said each of the five companies sentenced had failed in their duties to assess and mitigate risk. “That failure exposed others to risk of serious injury and death,” he added. — AFP / pic TMR FILE