White Island eruption: Government fund earmarks $5m to help small businesses

The Government announced on Monday it will earmark $5 million to help small businesses in Whakatane impacted by the White Island eruption.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the fund would be established at a post-Cabinet press conference.

The fund would also be used to help small businesses affected by severe weather in Westland, Ardern said.

"We don't see this necessarily being the totality of the need in both of these areas but we thought it important to make sure that we were working to address immediate needs in Whakatane, [and] also in Westland."

Ministers would work through details of the fund over the summer period, she said. 

The Prime Minister did not confirm whether tourism companies facing potential investigations would also be eligible for funding.

One person who may be helped by the fund is hero pilot Mark Law.

The helicopter pilot flew to White Island directly after it erupted to carry survivors to hospital.

He, along with other pilots from his company, picked up 10 badly burned people and took them to the mainland soon after the eruption.

But on Tuesday Law told Reuters he now had fears for the future of his business, Kahu Helicopters.

"We're going to be greatly affected, we're anticipating probably damn near shutting the doors," Law told Reuters. "It's going to be devastating, we've been operating that part of our business for years."

Sixteen people have been confirmed dead so far following the eruption.

Investigations had already been launched by WorkSafe and the Coroner, but Ardern said the Government was waiting on advice as to whether more investigations into the tragedy would also take place.