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NZ mayor says White Island Tours are a ‘responsible operator’

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The Mayor of nearby Whakatane says White Island Tours, who managed the disastrous trip, are “a very responsible operator”.

Mayor Judy Turner says the island is a “national icon” for both domestic and international tourists.

“I think the nature of adventure tourism, where people do consider a degree of risk, and trust an operator to safely conduct them through that, that’s going to be a challenge with this one.”

Six people have been confirmed dead after the White Island volcano erupted in New Zealand on Monday, three of whom are Australians.

Police have confirmed 47-year-old Julie Richards and her 20-year-old daughter Jessica are among the dead, along with Adelaide man Gavin Dallow.

At least another seven Australians are unaccounted for.

Worsening conditions are hampering the recovery efforts, with seismic activity and the chance of another eruption increasing.

Vulcanologist Shane Cronin says “everything is totally unstable… it’s like a little pressure cooker.”

Many have questioned why the tour operator would allow people on the island at alert ‘Level 2’, but Mr Cronin explains an eruption can occur at any time – even when the volcano is given a ‘Level 1’ danger rating.

“The idea with the alert system is that at ‘Level 2’, people are a little bit more on edge.”

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Mayor Turner has put her support behind an inquiry to confirm if White Island can be considered a safe destination at ‘Level 2’ in the future.

This is very traumatic for us as a community… We pride ourselves on being very responsible hosts, and the thought that people who have come and visited our area have been injured is very upsetting.”

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Image: Getty/Michael Schwab

Luke Grant