'Very unfair': Police Minister Stuart Nash rejects White Island comparison to Pike River

Police Minister Stuart Nash is rejecting a "very unfair" comparison made between authorities' handling of the Whakaari/White Island eruption and the 2010 Pike River mine disaster. 

"I think that's very unfair," Nash told reporters in Parliament on Tuesday, when asked about the comparison made by one of the White Island eruption victim's brother. 

Whakatane tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman is one of those missing, believed dead, on the island - one of the multiple victims of the eruption.

His brother, who asked not to be named, has criticised authorities' handling of the response to the White Island disaster so far, telling Stuff: "It smells like Pike River all over again."

"[It's] people from Wellington making decisions for people that go on the island daily who know the island inside out," the brother added. 

Foreign Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said questions around handling of the White Island rescue effort are "premature" at this stage. 

"We'll get to the bottom of it when we can."

The handling of the Pike River mine disaster was still being questioned almost a decade on. A Newshub investigation earlier this year discovered police destroyed 52 exhibits that were found around the mine after it exploded. 

The 2010 explosion claimed the lives of 29 miners and contractors, and a 2012 Royal Commission Report on the tragedy said the company's directors and executive managers paid insufficient attention to health and safety. 

Internal Affairs Minister and New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin said on Tuesday there may be capacity for an inquiry into what's happened at White Island. 

The Police Minister said on Tuesday police have done everything they could to rescue people from White Island, which erupted suddenly on Monday afternoon. 

"They had no idea what they were dealing with and what they're doing is waiting for the right scientific and technical information before they can even think about going onto the island."

Newshub asked about the independent operators who stepped in to rescue people from the island on Monday, and whether there could still be 31 people trapped if they hadn't taken that risk. 

"It's hypothetical, but I must admit those independent operators did a fantastic job under very dangerous circumstances and I take my hat off to them - true heroes." 

The Police Minister said the police Eagle helicopter flew over the island on Monday night and saw no signs of life "whatsoever".

"Keeping in mind, we are dealing with a volcano here; very volatile situation and the police are waiting for scientific and technical information before they make any decisions about going onto the island and recovering victims."

He said the private operators "got in there and did an amazing job". 

"The bottom line is it's not safe but they did do a fantastic job in getting those survivors off the island and I take my hat off to them - they really are heroes.

"All I would say is that at this point, the police's main role is coordination and recovery, and then victim identification. 

"But at this point in time, they are waiting for very clear scientific and technical advice before they can go to the island to undertake the job they need to do."

Justice Minister Andrew Little said there has been no update to plans for a corporate manslaughter law - something he asked officials to look into following a police decision not to prosecute over the collapse of Christchurch's CTV Building in the 2011 earthquake.

"As is the nature of Government, other things take priority, and since 15 March, we've prioritised things more related to national security and community security so that pushes other things off the programme."

As for whether a law like that could apply to the White Island situation, Little said he would "need to wait until we see some facts about the background of how people were on that island before I'd suggest anything like that". 

"What we do want to do if we're introducing changes such as a corporate manslaughter law, we do want to get it right and get support across Parliament."

Follow the latest updates on the White Island natural disaster here