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Tour company in New Zealand fails to get health & safety charge dismissed over White Island

A booking agent that helped cruise ship passengers visit Whakaari / White Island has failed in a bid to have a health and safety charge dismissed.

ID Tours is one of 12 parties accused of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, leading up to the eruption in 2019.

The company is facing a four-month trial this year, alongside other tourism companies, Crown Research Institute GNS Science, and the island's owners, the Buttles.

Twenty-two people died from horrific burns and blast injuries after the eruption at the submarine volcano in December 2019.

Forty-seven people were on the crater at the time - most were cruise ship passengers visiting with White Island Tours.

ID Tours said its work and obligations in the supply chain did not extend onto the island.

But on Tuesday afternoon, Judge Evangelos Thomas rejected this, delivering his decision in Whakatāne District Court.

"Did ID Tours Ltd owe a duty to tourists on Whakaari? Yes," Judge Thomas said.

"ID Tours acted as a conduit between overseas entities and local tour operators to facilitate the tour booking process ... It remained in constant contact about passenger numbers, cancellations, and any other relevant information for the timely provision of Whakaari excursions."

Judge Thomas referred to evidence from WorkSafe - including a document ID Tours provided to the cruise line Royal Caribbean.

"It [ID Tours] represented that it operates adventurous tours, and quote: 'We live and breathe our safety management system ... This covers ... all risk assessments ... sightseeing venues ... emergency procedures and safety procedures'."

On Monday, ID Tours' lawyer David Neutze argued "The supply chain is being taken too far".

Besides reconciling bookings, ID Tours also ensured "that the right number of passengers got onto the bus in Tauranga and then back off the bus when they came back from a tour", Neutze said.

But WorkSafe's lawyer Kirsty McDonald KC said "far from having a passive or truly administrative role, ID Tours was required to be proactive in ensuring that it obtained and provided health and safety information to Royal Caribbean through to the tourists".

"They had a proactive responsibility and were more than just a ticketing agent," she said.

The trial is due to start in July.

Article originated in Star News

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