UK Families Form Group To Push For Tougher Extreme Sport Standards In New Zealand

The families of three British people killed in Adventure Sport activities in New Zealand have formed an support and pressure group to push for better regulation of the industry and have called for all operators to be licensed. See ABC News report of a RadioNZ broadcast

The families of Emily Jordan, Sarah Bond and Tom Sewell (the latter two both died in quad bike accidents, Sarah on Te Anga Farm, Waitomo and Tom in a fruit orchard in Katikati. Click on their names for their individual stories) have called for an high quality extreme sport licensing system to be established in New Zealand, in an effort to improve safety standards and to regulate novel sports before they are allowed to set-up, much the same as what happens in Great Britain. The group has yet to give itself a name.

When Tom Sewell died 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.”

Emily’s father Chris Jordan wrote to PM John Key calling for a review of the industry calling its safety regulation “third world” after his daughter died in a river boarding activity and called the fine given to the company that took her out “an insult“. Mad Dog Riverboarding, one of many companies to be tried during 2009, pleaded guilty but the fine was not enough to put them out of business – not only are they still trading and but amazingly  they’ve also recently applied to expand their operations.

Mr. Jordan wrote in his letter to Mr Key hat he had spent 16 months investigating the way that extreme sports firms are regulated in New Zealand and was “appalled” at what he had found.
He said “It is vital that more young people do not die in this way. It is a tragic, unnecessary waste and they leave many grieving people behind for whom life is forever changed. This situation is damaging New Zealand’s reputation worldwide.

Review already delayed
His letter prompted a review of the industry, which has already been pushed back by two months (See blog post Adventure tourism review extended’) in order  “to give operators sufficient time to engage more fully with the review” suggesting a lack of buy-in amongst those in industry who see no reason to participate.

We think that this nonchalance is probably what’s caused the parents to form their pressure group: to ensure that the initial impetus is maintained and the review is not allowed to wither and die before it’s even properly started.

The group has our full support, something must be done to improve safety standards in New Zealand  before any more people are killed or seriously injured. Three outcomes we’d like to see from the report are:

  • Better protection of employees and the public through by more comprehensive and well managed risk control strategies, bench marked against international standards. These procedures should  be reviewed regularly to ensure they’re effective.
  • Less reliance on ACC to pick up the tab and more muscle exerted by insurance companies on higher risk activities.
  • Heavier penalties for operators who fail to manage risks properly, including closing down operators who are considered to be unsafe and imposing manslaughter charges where applicable. Revenue raised through fines and licensing should be returned to the industry to further improve safety standards.

We also echo the families’ call for a licensing system to be established in New Zealand and feel sure that there is a wealth of information and support in the UK which NZ could draw upon in establishing its own, high quality and world class scheme.

See also NZ guiding industry failing to manage risks properly

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