White Island eruption: Tours to Moutohorā/Whale Island recommence for the first time since eruption

White Island
White Island Photo credit: Westpac

White Island Tours Limited has recommenced its tours to Moutohorā/Whale Island for the first time since the December 9 Whakaari/White Island eruption that killed 18 people.

CEO Tracey Hook says despite the continuation of the tours being a positive step forward for staff, it will also be "a sombre and emotional occasion".

"Tourism is an important contributor for our local economy and our staff are eager to get back to work," Hook says.

Although no prohibitions were placed on Moutohorā following the devastating eruption, tours were temporarily halted as a mark of respect for the victims and their families.

"This is an important milestone for not just our staff but also the broader Whakatāne community," Hook says. 

"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."

Moutohorā/Whale Island is located roughly nine kilometres off the Bay of Plenty coast. The small isle is the remains of an eroded volcano, its last eruption believed to be in the Pleistocene (the Ice Age) roughly 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago. 

The designated Wildlife Management Reserve is "a pest-free oasis" inhabited by a number of the country's endangered plants, birds and reptiles.

Moutohorā tours take visitors through the regenerated native bush and to the island's hot water beach.