NZ adventure tourism review finds flaws

Ben McKay
·2-min read

A review into New Zealand's adventure tourism safety regime, prompted by the deadly White Island volcano tragedy last year, has found the workplace safety watchdog needs to show more leadership.

Adventure tourism is a major and growing part of New Zealand's tourism sector, but carries significant risk and periodically results in tragedy.

Since 2004, at least 61 people have died in adventure activities - including the 22 who were killed during Whakaari's eruption in December last year.

The review has found WorkSafe - which has charged 13 people and organisations for not meeting health and safety obligations in relation to the deadly blast - itself wasn't doing enough to enforcing safety standards.

"(Workplace safety laws) allow WorkSafe to have a strong role in supporting the implementation of the regime. However, in practice these functions have not been used to their full effect," the report reads.

Hazards identified include landslides, avalanches, risk of water surge and flood, collapse, rockfall and volcanic eruptions.

The review suggests better analysis of natural hazards and communication of those hazards to participants.

It has been alleged that tourists travelling to White Island were not properly informed of the risks of visiting an active volcano.

Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said WorkSafe was prioritising other sectors with high work-related harm over adventure tourism, and the organisation should be better resourced to do both.

The review also found a new safety regime, fully implemented in 2014, has improved safety on the whole.

"The review shows that the adventure activities regulatory regime is performing reasonably well, but has identified areas which could be strengthened," Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood said.

Off the back of the report, Mr Wood has also commissioned a probe into WorkSafe's oversight of tourism operators on Whakaari, due in May.

The volcano has been off-limits to tourists since last year's blast, which counted 14 Australians among its victims.