Charges dismissed against Buttle brothers

Charges dismissed against Buttle brothers

The three brothers who own New Zealand’s Whakaari White Island where 22 people died in a volcanic eruption in 2019 have had charges against them dismissed in an Auckland court.

Andrew, James and Peter Buttle, their company Whakaari Management Ltd and tour operators ID Tours NZ Ltd and Tauranga Tourism Services Ltd went on trial in July for allegedly failing to adequately protect tourists and staff.

The deadly White Island eruption.

Of those killed, 14 were Australians, five were Americans, two were New Zealanders and one was a German, with prosecutors alleging that the eruption at the popular tourist destination was not predictable but was foreseeable.

There were 47 people on the island when the volcano erupted, many of whom were badly burnt by searing gas and ash.

On Tuesday, Judge Evangelos Thomas agreed with an application by their defence lawyer James Cairney to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that prosecutors had failed to prove their case against each of the brothers. The case against the brothers’ company Whakaari Management Ltd continues.


“There is no evidence in this case of what happened behind the boardroom door at [Whakaari Management Ltd],” Thomas said. “Without that evidence, I cannot assess what a reasonable director would have done.”

This had been the brothers’ third application to have the charges dismissed and came after WorkSafe NZ, who had brought the case against the three, concluded its evidence.

WorkSafe NZ alleged those on the island were not given warning of the risks when visiting despite the volcano having had 42 “eruptive periods” since colonial records began in 1826.