Independent review of WorkSafe in relation to Whakaari/White Island

The Workplace Relations and Safety Minister asked MBIE to provide him with advice on whether WorkSafe has carried out its obligations appropriately in relation to Whakaari/White Island.

About the review

The independent review assesses the adequacy and appropriateness of WorkSafe’s actions regarding activities on Whakaari/White Island and whether further steps should have been taken. It also recommended changes to WorkSafe’s systems, processes and practices.

The review covers a 5-year period, from November 2014, when the adventure activity regulations were fully in place, to 9 December 2019, the day of the eruption.

MBIE appointed David Laurenson QC to conduct the independent review. David Laurenson has more than 30 years’ experience as a litigation lawyer. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2014 and has appeared in a wide range of civil, commercial and criminal cases.

The review findings

The review found that WorkSafe fell short of good practice in its regulation of activities on Whakaari White Island over the 2014-19 period. The review says that improvements are needed in WorkSafe’s management of the adventure activities system.

The recommendations of the independent review include:

  • WorkSafe should recognise activities carried out on Whakaari White Island as its own adventure activity (rather than as part of trekking/mountaineering activities)
  • WorkSafe should identify the appropriate experience and qualifications required to carry out an audit of these activities – in particular, the expertise to assess whether operators are using good practice to manage the risks of people being close to a live volcano
  • WorkSafe, or an appropriate industry body, should identify individuals or organisations with appropriate experience and qualifications, and ensure they are available to be engaged as a technical expert when required.
  • WorkSafe should implement processes to ensure that when they are informed about an audit being planned for activities on Whakaari White Island, auditors are told to use an appropriate technical expert and are provided the details of the technical experts available.
  • WorkSafe, in partnership with the identified technical experts, should consider whether it should develop safety guidelines for activities on Whakaari White Island.

The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety has written to the Chairman of WorkSafe’s Board requesting action be taken to address the report’s findings and recommendations by 30 June 2022.

Key documents

Whakaari White Island - WorkSafe report [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Summary of findings: Whakaari White Island WorkSafe report [PDF, 156 KB]

Terms of reference: Review of WorkSafe New Zealand’s performance of its regulatory functions in relation to activities on Whakaari White Island [PDF, 71 KB]

Consultation on changes to the regime

MBIE is also consulting on proposed changes to the adventure activities regulatory regime.

Read more about the proposed changes to the adventure activities regime

Last updated: 22 October 2021