Proposed changes to adventure activity regulations could prove to be a nightmare for commercial operators and landowners.
A review of the adventure activities regulatory regime is proposing to tighten restrictions on how operators work, and introduce tougher rules for landowners who allow access to adventure activity operators.
Under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment proposal, landowners will have to be involved in the management of natural hazards, providing information to operators or assessing and managing risks.
The review came in the wake of the 2019 Whakaari/ White Island eruption that killed 22 people and injured 25 who were on a tour accompanied by an operating company.
Cycle Ventures owner Rob Connolly previously held an adventure activities licence, but let it lapse due to the already costly, time consuming and stressful process.
An audit for the licence cost about $6000 every few years, and his business could not afford it.
Any changes would make the process more expensive and he believed the act was already thorough enough.
‘‘With this regime change, from what I understand . . . they’re going to make it even harder or more thorough for the companies to audit which I can’t see how they can make it any harder anyway,’’ Mr Connolly said.
‘‘I think they’re going down the line of making things too hard. They’re trying to audit things that are just so complex when really what you need is somebody really experienced in the field.’’
The changes would not directly affect his business, but he was contracted through other companies that it could affect.
However, his main concern was landowners would become responsible for mitigating hazards, rather than operators. He was worried many landowners would minimise access to their land as a result.
‘‘You look at all our activities that we do as Kiwis . . .you go backcountry skiing, why is the landowner going to be responsible if there’s an avalanche? They’d have to go out every day and do a snow pack — that’s just completely unworkable.
‘‘If someone falls off the top of the cliff and I’m looking after them, why would the landowner be responsible? They don’t have the skill set to manage that risk — it’s me, it’s my business that has that.’’
While the changes did not directly affect the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC), many members owned adventure businesses, which led president Clare Kearney to make a submission on the changes.
Mrs Kearney, of Oamaru, said the industry was already highly regulated, and generally, operators managed their risk very well. She agreed with Mr Connolly that landowners may not want the burden of mitigating hazards and shut any access. Landowners may also not be as skilled at assessing the hazards as operators.
NZAC’s submission profiled high country farmers who may not visit their high alpine areas to monitor avalanche hazards in winter. They could lack expertise to asses the stability of a snow pack, Mrs Kearney said.
‘‘Qualified mountain guides who used this private land regularly throughout the winter are proficient in assessing avalanche risk in relation to changing conditions on the specific terrain. An avalanche hazard is best assessed by qualified people,’’ she said.
Mrs Kearney acknowledged the review was needed but said the current act ‘‘appears to be sufficient’’.
‘‘I think it’s understandable in the wake of Whakaari White Island that the regulations are reviewed but I would hope that the reviewers will take into consideration a longer time frame of health and safety that operators have worked under very successfully too.
‘‘Whakaari is a tragic event but operators work hard and they are highly regulated in terms of applying strict health and safety processes.’’