White Island Tours Limited has continued tours to Moutohorā Island for the first time since the Whakaari/White Island eruption.
A total of 18 people were killed by the eruption which occurred on December 9.
Chief Executive officer Tracey Hook says that whilst this is a positive step forward in terms of providing certainty and employment for staff, the recommencement of tours will be a sombre and emotional occasion.
No prohibitions had been placed on Moutohorā following the eruption, but the tour had been temporarily ceased out of respect for the victims, staff and affected families.
White Island Tours has carried out tours to Moutohorā for a number of years.
“Tourism is an important contributor for our local economy and our staff are eager to get back to work,” Tracey says.
Moutohorā Island is a designated Wildlife Management Reserve. It is jointly managed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and Te Papa Atawhai through Te Tapatoru a Toi.
Moutohorā is a pest-free oasis that is home to a number of New Zealand’s rare and endangered plants, birds and reptiles. The tour includes a journey through the regenerated native bush before stopping at the island’s secluded hot water beach.
“This is an important milestone for not just our staff but also the broader Whakatāne community, says Hook.
“We thank everyone locally, nationally and internationally for their support. Our hearts and prayers remain firmly with the families who were and continue to be affected by this tragedy.”