WorkSafe has laid out potential fines for the accused after more harrowing victim impact statements were read out in the Whakaari sentencing this morning.

Prosecutor Kristy McDonald KC argued fines should be imposed, despite some of the defendants having no money to pay them.

She also laid out the position of the business that owns the island, Whakaari Management Limited (WML), telling the court that licence fees to take tourists to the volcano amounted to “substantial revenue of around $1 million per year”.

“What we know is that WML (Whakaari Management Limited) never had a bank account. It didn’t receive any of this income. It did nothing more than act as a corporate trustee of Whakaari Management Trust, a family trust settled by the Buttle brothers.”

She said the revenue was not paid to WML but to the family trust.

Because of trust laws in New Zealand, WorkSafe has not been able to look beyond the business to the trustees. “The court cannot look any further than WML in this case, which does not and never did have any money.”

The result is that WML can’t provide compensation to victims of the eruption, “and no offer to assist it to do so has been made by any of the shareholders.”

“WML did not see fit to hold it’s own insurance. That will be consistent with its position that we heard at trial, that it did not believe it owed any duty to tourists or workers on Whakaari.”

“The simple consequence is that the reparation and fines that would otherwise be appropriate cannot be paid.”

Two of the other defendants held some insurance. White Island Tours has $5 million to pay victims and Volcanic Air Safaris has $300,000.

The court heard suggestions as to how the limited funds might be divided amongst victims, comparing it to the amounts suggested by the defendants.

Arguments are expected to continue into next week.

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