15 Mar 2013

Adventure tourism firms face compulsory safety audits

9:44 pm on 15 March 2013

The Government has issued a mandatory safety audit system to ensure the adventure tourism industry has rigorous safety management measures in place.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges says operators must register their safety systems, consistently record their performance and be audited every three years..

New regulations governing commercial adventure activities came into effect in November 2011.

Operators in 17 activities, including rock climbing, kayaking, bungee jumping, caving, abseiling and quad bike adventures must now be ready to be audited by November 2014.

Outdoors New Zealand chief executive Garth Dawson says rafting, jet boating and hot air ballooning are not covered because they are regulated by maritime and aviation law.

Mr Dawson says the industry will be overseen by an international audit compliance organisation and operators will need to show they consistently record their safety systems.

He says operators will decide which drug and alcohol policy they use, but will have to prove their choice is working effectively.

Mr Bridges says there will always be a level of risk with such activities, but commercial operators must take all practicable steps to operate safely.

He says the audit system raises the safety standard to the level the Civil Aviation Authority and Maritime New Zealand already hold for activities such as skydiving, rafting and microlighting.

Mr Bridges says there are more regulations to come but the Government is systematically ensuring those participating in adventure tourism have the highest sense of surety in safety systems.

The review of the sector was prompted in 2009 by British father Chris Jordan who wrote to John Key in his role as Tourism Minister after Mr Jordan's daughter Emily Jordan drowned while riverboarding on the Kawerau River.

Not enough, says another father

Bosco Peters, whose daughter Catherine died when she fell while bridge swinging on a rope in the Manawatu Gorge in 2009, says he fears the system won't be rigorous enough.

Having looked at the new standards, he says he already has concerns.

"They're talking about auditing every three years; I just wonder if that's in any way adequate. The cafe is inspected annually, all you can get from a cafe is amoebic dysentery. Cars are inspected annually at least."

Mr Peters says he would also like to see public notices displayed showing when a business had last been inspected.