Whakatane locals call it the double whammy.
Last December, the eruption of offshore volcano Whakaari left 22 visitors and locals dead, as well as a community traumatised.
And this year, New Zealand’s COVID-induced lockdown squashed the tourist town’s chance of economic revival.
Mayor Judy Turner said setbacks weren’t new for Whakatane, but the scale of this disaster was unheralded.
“We’ve had floods and earthquakes and a number of things we’ve had to recover from,” she said.
“But this has been quite significant.
“And I think for us this is not something that’s going to have an end date. I think we will probably for many decades now have those memories and we’ll still be responding to what happened.”
For years, Whakatane has served as the base to explore White Island, around 50km north offshore in the Bay of Plenty.
That ended a year ago on Wednesday with the blast stopping all tourist operations to the volcano.
Many threads from the tragedy remain unravelled; not least of all the human tragedy in which 14 Australians were killed.
The primary investigation by NZ’s workplace safety watchdog is heading to the Auckland District Court next week, where 13 parties will face charges of operating recklessly.
An Australian-led class action against Royal Caribbean, the cruise ship company which offered the volcano tour to its guests, has been mooted.
The scale of the tragedy has also prompted the government into a re-think on regulations for the entire adventure tourism industry
A coroner’s investigation remains live and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won’t rule out an additional investigation should unanswered questions remain.
For Wednesday at least, the focus will return to the victims.
Ngati Awa, the local Maori community, are hosting Ms Ardern in a event downscaled as international visitors are unable to attend.
“This is one of the devastating effects of COVID,” Ms Ardern said, noting the planned memorial a year on from the Christchurch Mosque terror attacks was also scotched due to the pandemic.
This commemoration has been designed with international victims in mind, and screened globally by Maori TV.
“It’s also been very focused around how a wider group of people can participate, both in Whakatane but also globally,” Ms Ardern said.
“I hope people will feel the connection to those events.
“I’d want them to know … particularly those from Australia, they will be in our thoughts this week too.”