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Guidance on new safety rules needed sooner, adventure tourism operators say

Aug 18, 2023

A South Island tourism operator is worried new safety rules are putting the cart before the horse by not providing guidance to businesses earlier.

Under the changes, adventure tourism operators will have to tell customers about any serious risks before they buy a ticket and inform them if there are any changes to risks during the activity.

WorkSafe will also have more powers to clamp down on operators that are not providing their activities safely, including being able to suspend operations immediately if there is an imminent and serious safety risk.

The changes were in response to the 2019 Whakaari tragedy, where 22 people died and many others were burned in a volcanic eruption.

Fox Glacier Guiding chief executive Rob Jewell said the rules did need to be tidied up, but an April enforcement date would be tight for many operators.

The government was developing guidance on managing natural hazard risks and activity-specific safety. That was expected in the next one to two years, he said.

"It does seem a little bit of the cart before the horse, in my view," Jewell said.

"It would have been really helpful if they had this all sorted out before they brought the regulations into effect so a business can make a really good, hard attempt to ensure that they've got everything in place before the legislation comes into effect.

"With just over seven months' time, that's going to place a lot of pressure on some businesses."

It would be challenging with the new regulations being enforced at the end of their summer season, he said.

But Jewell said it was important to ensure customers were kept safe and informed of the risks.

Alpine Recreation ran guided adventures in the Southern Alps, from ski touring to climbing and alpine trekking. Co-owner Anne Braun-Elwert did not have a problem with the changes.

"It's just a bit sad that one operator who is not acting as responsibly as they should impact all the rest of the industry, and increases the amount of administration time that we're going to have to spend dealing with this."

She was not expecting they would need to make many changes.

"A lot of the recommendations that have come out, like for example with the risk disclosure to make sure that clients know what they're buying before they buy and know all the risks involved - we're already doing that."

In a media release, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Carmel Sepuloni said adventure tourism was a major drawcard for tourists.

"With our tourism numbers continuing to bounce back, these changes will help keep them safe and maintain the high reputation of our adventure tourism industry across the globe.

"Most adventure activity operators are already following good practice and will only need to make minor adjustments to their safety systems. These changes will help standardise those practices across the sector.

"Guidance will be available to support operators to implement the changes they need to make to comply with the new regulations."

A further full review of the adventure activities regulations is due to start in 2026.

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