Adventure Tourism And Safety
Following a high number of deaths and serious injuries some countries have issued travel advisories for New Zealand, the warnings are out there if you know where to look.
Australia (May 2011)
“Many tourists safely undertake adventure activities in New Zealand. However, many adventure tourism activities have inherent risks, and there have been a number of serious accidents involving Australians and other tourists, some resulting in deaths. Some operators have been found to be negligent. You should be aware that safety standards in New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry may differ between individual operators and may differ from those in Australia.
Travellers need to make their own careful judgements about the risks involved in individual or group activities and of the safety standards of individual operators. We strongly recommend travellers inquire with individual operators about the safety standards adhered to, whether these standards are applied across the industry and the risks involved in the activity. We recommend travellers hold travel insurance and complementary accident or income protection insurance and understand what circumstances and activities are not covered by the policies.”
Britain (May 2011)
“There have been a number of tragic accidents involving British visitors; these also include extreme sporting accidents. If you intend to participate in extreme sports do check that the company is well established in the industry and that your insurance covers you. If you intend visiting remote areas, check with local tourist authorities for advice before setting out. Ensure that you register your details with a Visitor Information Centre or family or friends. Weather conditions can quickly become treacherous in some areas so keep yourself informed of regional weather forecasts.”
NZ workplace safety a ‘national disgrace’ – consultant (NZ Herald Jan 2013) “New Zealand’s health and safety record has been labelled as ‘woeful’ and a ‘national disgrace’ by a consultant with two decades’ experience in the sector…Robyn Levinge says New Zealand has never prioritised health and safety like it has with road safety, domestic violence and drink driving…”As a country, we have simply not given health and safety the priority it deserves at any level…”
One Way Ticket (60 minutes TV, Oct 2012) “Every year, thousands of young Australians fly off for a gap year adventure. Their travels take them all over the world, often to poor and dangerous places that make their mums and dads fret…But the world capital of adventure tourism can be a deadly place as Glenn (Bourke) and eight others so tragically discovered…”
New Zealand Adrenaline Nation (ABC News, Oct 2012)”not everyone walks away from an adventure tourism experience in New Zealand. Over the past eight years at least 50 visitors have died when things went dreadfully wrong. Many more have suffered crippling injuries…In a forensic examination of New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry and safety regime, correspondent Dominique Schwartz exposes significant flaws in regulation and safety awareness. She investigates the activities of a prominent ballooning operator with a troubling track record and hears evidence that NZ’s taxpayer-funded accident compensation scheme (ACC) may be enabling poor practice.”
- The Search and Rescue (SAR) Annual General Report for 2011-2012 revealedA total of 103 fatalities were recorded (over double the number for 2010-2011) – this equates to two people dying every week in the NZ outdoors.SAR were involved three times every day in land based incidents – a 10% increase over 2010-2011.SAR is involved in more land based incidents than water based – a significant change over the past six years.
- 19 deaths in the adventure and outdoor commercial sectors were reported directly to the Dept. of Labour between 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2009. Guided canyoning claimed 7 victims (6 of them high school students) in one ‘accident’ and guided climbing claimed 4 victims in two ‘accidents’. The wider maritime adventure sector reported 6 fatalities to Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) and the aviation sector reported 4 fatalities to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) during this time.
- “Labour minister Kate Wilkinson said it was “scary” that just about anyone could set up an adventure tourism business.” quote in the Sydney Morning Herald.
- A wide ranging review of adventure tourism in New Zealand found gaps in safety, following which recommendations were made to introduce a registration scheme (not licensing) and mandatory auditing
- New Zealand’s no-fault Accident Compensation Scheme administers a 24 hour, 7 day per week, no-fault, comprehensive accident insurance scheme covering New Zealanders and those people visiting New Zealand. In return for this cover, people do not have the right to sue for damages if another person is at fault.
- The highest activity area for serious harm accident notifications is ski fields, followed by luge, horse trekking and ATV tour accidents. There are also a high number of notifications involving people having accidents while on an education course or camp. This includes confidence courses, adventure camps and team building events.
Man falls to his death whilst participating in team building fund day in Woodhill (NZ Police March 2013)”"A 57-year-old man fell to his death yesterday while attending a team building fun day at Treetops Adventures, Woodhill, Auckland.
A Doctor and an Advanced Paramedic were participants on the course nearby and rushed to assist the man. He died at the scene as a result of his injuries.
OSH attended the scene and are working closely with Treetop Adventures to investigate how the the fatality occurred.”
- Coronet Peak has been urged to enhance its avalanche hazard signage and fencing in the upper Greengates area. The Coroner’s recommendation followed the death of Queenstown snowboarder, Ryan Manu Campbell, in an avalanche outside the ski area boundary almost a year ago. (June 2010)
- Queenstown Lakes District Council complained that insufficient government funds could result in treacherous roads in to ski fields in the coming winter of 2011. NZ Transport Agency funding “for the Crown Range is $160,000, significantly less than the budget’s $306,000. The council’s draft annual plan says a reduction in funding could affect access to three skifields off the Crown Range Rd: Snow Farm, Snow Park and Cardrona. “The road would not be cleared and gritted from 5am as it has been previously,” the plan said. “Such a reduced level could clearly impact on winter ski area activities and potentially create safety issues.” (April 2011) source
- Licensing or approval is not currently required for many operators to commence commercial activity provision. Some agencies have the authority to certificate commencement of an activity for specified activities or to restrict its commencement through consenting processes. Powers to order adventure and outdoor commercial sector activities to cease to operate are similarly constrained. The regulations that are to be introduced in October 2011 will only require operators to be registered, not licensed, and companies will be allowed 3 years in which to comply.
Accidents and other incidents
- Two Dart River Jet Boat Safari crafts collied near the mouth of the Dart River in January 2013. There were 13 passengers on one of the boats, two were taken to hospital
- NZ’s most recent large scale adventure tourism tragedy was the death of eleven people, including the pilot in a ballooning crash in Clareville in the Wairarapa on 7 Jan 2012. The balloon was said to have hit powerlines and crashed in flames, killing all aboard. Further coverage
- NZ’s second largest fatallity was the deaths of nine people in a sky diving plane crash at Fox Glacier airfield on 4 September 2010. It was the day of the Christchurch earthquake and went largely unreported abroad.
- British tourist Emily Jordan died whilst river boarding with Mad Dog River Boarding on the Kawarau River in 2008. The company was fined just £27,600 after admitting that they had failed to secure the safety of their customers and later applied to expand its operations. In May 2011 the British coroner made a number of criticisms about the company and the lack of safety information given to clients.
- Crag Adventures Company director, Alistair McWhannell, was found found guilty of the manslaughter of student Catherine Peters after he allowed her to jump from a bridge with a rope that was too long and not tied off properly in March 2009.
- “Complacency and an underestimation of risks” contributed to a canyoning tragedy that killed 6 students and their teacher.
- Gerado Bean and Andrew Scotland were killed when their commercially operated tandem hang-glider crashed near the Remarkables in 2009. The Coroner, David Crerar was told “the commercial hang-glider was being flown beyond its limitations by Mr Bean, who worked for Skytrek Tandem Hang Gliding, before it crashed when it collapsed in flight and plummeted to the ground. An investigation following the accident found Mr Scotland had not been weighed before the flight, the reserve parachute on the hang-glider was not a suitable size for the load and the hang-glider had failed structurally because it was being flown “in a manner which exceeded its design capability”. source ”In his findings, Mr Crerar says Mr Bean had been executing manoeuvres to entertain and exhilarate Mr Scotland and should have been taking more care.”
- Tourists have suffered severe spinal injuries whilst travelling in commerically operated fast boat rides off the beaches of Northland and the Bay of Islands. The boats involved include the Excitor III and The Mack Attack (April 2011)
- A 16 year old girl was strangled and loss consciousness after her scarf became trapped whilst driving at North City Indoor Raceway in Elsdon, Porirua.
- See also: “Skier airlift from Mount Hutt”. Some reports say the woman was skiing off trail and fell onto rocks, however other reports say she slipped on some ice and fell, hitting some rocks in the process. It was the second fatality in the opening week of the 2010 season and an internal investigation has been started.
- An Australian tourist, 39 year old Kirsty Moulder, was injured in a bungy ’accident’ after she slipped out of a bungy cord operated by Thrillseekers Adventures Inc over a river near Hamner Springs. May 2010
- British doctor Tom Donaldson died whilst particpating in an organised sand boarding activity in Omapere -Opononi in Northland. At his inquest in November 2010 the coroner said “Visitors wanting to experience New Zealand’s adventure tourism should be warned that they are taking a risk.” and that adventure tourism businesses should warn those keen to experience the thrills about the dangers via their websites.
- Despite desperate calls for help two foreign nationals in their early 20s died whilst kayaking in a hired canoe on Lake Wakatipu in December 2010.
- Australian tourist, Catherine Carlyle, sustained severe injuries from a propeller as she jumped off the back of a dolphin watching boat in Marlborough Sound in December 2010.She was on a trip organised by Dolphin Ecowatch Tours. A witness told the press ” The tour guide blew the whistle to say it was safe to jump”
- Eight people were injured, one seriously, when a Dolphin Ecowatch Tours catamaran collided with an Outward Bound Clipper in Marlborough Sounds in February 2011. Some reports said that the Clipper was stationary at the time of the collision.
- An experienced Russian diver died shortly after coming up from a dive in Port Gore in the Marlborough Sounds in January 2011.
- British tourist Sarah Bond was killed on a quad bike tour at Te Anga farm, 30km west of Waitomo Caves, August 2008. “The fatal accident was investigated and eventually the Department of Labour laid charges against Waitomo Big Red for failing to take “all practicable steps to ensure that people are not harmed”. Investigators said the company failed to:*Identify hazards like the steep slope off the side of the track.*Erect barriers or fences at the site.*Ensure warning signs were in place.* Maintain the tracks.” source
- British tourist Tom Sewell, 19, was also killed in a quad bike incident, he died on a fruit orchard at KatiKati. A NZPA report stated
“The on-farm handling of quad bikes has been an issue raised by accident investigators and insurers. Bikes have been getting bigger and more powerful. Training of riders has also been an issue.”
- Swedish tourist Anita Engman, died whilst swimming with dolphins in the sea with ‘Encounter Kaikoura’ in November 2010
- Three other people have been killed while swimming with dolphins or whales in NZ, one of several activities not governed by any guidelines or standards.
- American tourist Emily May Parker was found face down in the water whilst swimming with dolphins in Marlborough Sound. She had been on a tour with Dolphin Ecowatch Tours in October 2009.
- Australian tourist, 38-year-old John Parisis, from New South Wales, fell and died whilst on a guided tour with Franz Josef Glacier Guides in South Island. His cousin, Tina Vasilakis, said he had been in “good health” and was “excited to start his new life overseas“ (Switzerland). “He walked regularly and had a blood test before he left, with nothing concerning,” Ms Vasilakis told The Australian. “We are all taking it pretty hard.”
- Five people were taken to hospital when their Shotover Jet boat collided with a cliff wall near Queenstown in November 2010, among them were people from Germany, the United States and Britain
- In October 2007 Norwegian trainee guide, Tor Prestmo, 24, drowned when he was swept under water after a collision between two rafts on a grade five rapid on Rangitikei River near Bulls. River Valley Ventures ltd. was later convicted for health and safety breaches.
- A year earlier a school student from Newcastle, Australia was trapped and nearly drowned just 15cm below the surface of this river whilst on a rafting expedition with River Valley Ventures.
Statistics and Inaccurate Record Keeping
- 448 adventure tourism workplace accidents that resulted in serious harm… were reported directly to DOL during the five-year period 1 July 2004-30 June 2009. Not all workplace accidents in the sector are being reported to DOL, possibly because they are viewed as recreation rather than workplace accidents.
- “Many injuries go unreported, so the figures of injuries included in the report are unrealistically low. I’ve studied adventure tourism injuries for the past decade and many injuries to overseas visitors are never reported to official bodies.” said Professor Tim Bentley, director of Massey University’s School of Management’s Healthy Work Group. August 2010.
- Since 1995 the NZ Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC)has investigated 20 investigated occurrences involving jet boats. 3 involved high-speed rollovers: one each in 1997, 1998 and 2008. The Commission “made safety recommendations covering the fitment of rollover bars on jet boats operating on braided river systems and the need for accurate recording of passenger numbers on boats to assist emergency services. These 3 rollover accidents resulted in one fatality and, 5 serious injuries and 3 minor injuries” together with another accident in Feb 2009 there has been one fatality, 5 serious and 5 minor injuries in a period of just over 11 years.
- TAIC “has made recommendations to the Director of Maritime New Zealand: to encourage proper recognition of driver distraction in jet boat operations; regarding the marking of emergency exits from enclosed boats; and regarding the design and placement of fuel vents.”
- The Civil Aviation Authority moved to prevent Christchurch ballooning company Up, Up and Away Ltd from flying its hot air balloons. The CAA director said “I consider that the operation presents a threat to people’s safety, and have taken action to stop it.” The action was only taken after it was disclosed that “in 1995, when the company was called Balloon Adventures, Peter Kollar, a then-director of the company, was piloting a company balloon that ditched in the sea off Waimairi Beach in Christchurch. Three tourists drowned…In 2004, a Christchurch court was told the company, since re-named Balloon Adventures Up Up and Away Ltd, had been the subject of 15 complaints to the CAA since 1992. These including flying in fog, clipping power lines and making unscheduled landings in the middle of suburban streets in the city of Christchurch. Mr Kollar finished as a director and went to the United Arab Emirates five years ago, saying he was the victim of a vendetta by the New Zealand aviation authorities.” (source)
- “The CAA said it has drafted new rules to force all aviation adventure tourism activities, including hot air balloons, microlights, warbirds, and tandem hang gliders and paragliders to hold air operator certificate. The CAA safeguards civil aviation in New Zealand, with control over which operators can fly passengers and authority to make sure they meet safety standards. CAA chairman Rick Bettle and Civil Aviation director Steve Douglas, have promised their minister to fix systems deficiencies, including decisions to certify some operators, despite their non-compliance with CAA rules, without enough evidence to verify the discretion exercised.”(July 2010)
- For over 50% of the incoming notifications of outdoor adventure incidents to DOL during the past two years, a decision was made not to carry out a workplace investigation. All notified workplace fatalities are investigated.
- For the Dept of Labour, where an investigation has occurred, only a small number resulted in some statutory enforcement action. Within the five year time-frame and sector under review, there have, however, been at least 6 prosecution actions taken. MNZ and CAA similarly undertook some enforcement actions.
- Tourism plays a significant role in the New Zealand economy. For the year end March 2009, tourism directly and indirectly contributed $15 billion (or 9.1%) to New Zealand’s GDP (excluding GST and import duties). International tourist expenditure over this period accounted for $9.3 billion or 16.4% of New Zealand’s total export earnings.
- Domestic adventure tourists spent $1.2 billion and international adventure tourists spent a total of $3.0 billion on their New Zealand trip in the year ending March 2009. (excluding international airfares).
- 849,200 international tourists (aged 15 years and older) participated in adventure activities while in New Zealand in 2008 38% of all international tourists participated in at least one adventure activity while in the country, including both recreational and commercial activities.
- Almost half (48%) of international adventure tourists are younger than 35 years. 38% of domestic adventure tourists are younger than 35 years.
- International tourists from Australia (32%), the United Kingdom (17%) and the United States (11%) made up the largest share of all international adventure tourists,
- There is no single database of all qualifications held by owners, senior staff and non-senior staff members of these operations. However, an extensive list of qualifications undertaken by workplaces and matched to future training needs was compiled in 2005. Additionally, some activities have mandatory qualifications or best practice guidelines. (2010)