Last month an inquest was held in Britain into the death of young rugby player Tom Sewell.
Five years ago Tom Sewell started his first day of a working holiday in New Zeaalnd and was killed whilst riding a quad bike on a farm in Katikati, on the North Island.
It’s sad that it has taken this long for the coroner to reach a judgement about accidental death but when he did it was pretty damning and another nail in the coffin for NZ’s reputation for taking safety seriously.
There have been 37 deaths in quad bike accidents since 2008 and 3 since Boxing Day last year (source) Chief coroner Neil MacLean is said to be “frustrated by the large number of quad bike deaths around the country.”
We’ve blogged many times about the high numbers of deaths, serious injuries and near misses in New Zealand’s tourism industry, the egregious lack of safety awareness and attitudes that can be best described as “she’ll be right”. Read posts tagged Adventure tourism or see our adventure tourism and safety Wiki for further details.
A report into the inquest by Getsurrey.co.uk showed how both the NZ and UK coroners highlighted a serious lack of duty of care and health and safety awareness at the farm. What they found has wider implications for workplace health and safety, and the whole of the tourism industry in New Zealand, especially working holiday providers.
“Mr Travers explained there were no written instructions and no crash helmets, which he said would indicate problems with health and safety.
At the first inquest into Tom’s death, held in New Zealand in November 2009, nine recommendations were made by the chief coroner, which Mr Travers has agreed to support following his findings.
Among the nine were recommendations for a clear written policy on the use of all-terrain vehicles and that helmets should be worn when driving these vehicles.
He added that when employees were working in orchards, there should be supervision and a nominated person responsible for the health and safety of workers.
In addition, visitors and potential employees should not be permitted to start work without a health and safety induction and a proper introduction to the site.
Tom’s father thinks it is clear that health and safety in New Zealand needs to be assessed…” read more here
The report went on to mention a number of tourist deaths in New Zealand, all of which we’ve covered in this blog in the past, saying
Tom’s death is just one of many tragedies involving Britons taking gap year visits to New Zealand.
The mother of Sarah Bond spoke about New Zealand’s “she’ll be right” attitude,
What underpins all of this is the lack of safety and lack of care out there,” said her mother, Elizabeth Bond. “It feels like ‘accidents happen’ is their mantra.”
Enough is Enough
Now a group of 200 international families have decided enough is enough and are campaigning for a tightening up of New Zealand’s perceived lax safety standards. This is probably a continuation of the campaign that was started in 2010 by the families of British tourists Emily Jordan, Sarah Bond and Tom Sewell .
Furthermore, the majority of the NZ public agree with them that something must be done because it’s not just international tourists that are suffering.
There have also been other New Zealand deaths, not least the tragic deaths of student Catherine Peters, the 6 highschool students and a teacher who died in a canyoning exercise with the Sir Edmund Hilary Outdoor Centre and the Kiwis who were killed in the Fox Glacier plane crash (9 dead) and the Carterton hot air balloon disaster (11 dead)
From an article in the NZ Herald we learn that Tom Sewell’s mother had contacted her former MP, Sir Humfrey Malins who had
“written to the NZ High Commissioner in London two years ago on the family’s behalf expressing concern – but had not received a response.
Linda said that silence was “very disappointing”. The family would now be writing to Key, asking him to adopt the UK Coroner’s safety recommendations.
The international letter-writing campaign to draw attention to New Zealand health and safety problems is spearheaded by two other British dads: Chris Coker, who lost his son Brad in the Fox Glacier plane crash, and Chris Jordan, who lost his daughter Emily Jordan in a riverboarding tragedy. Chris Coker has set up a website to warn people about the risks in New Zealand.
Brad would have turned 27 tomorrow. “I couldn’t go to work for nearly a year and now I go to work and see an empty chair,” he said. “Why is it my job as a grieving parent to fight the terrible injustice of my son’s death because it was preventable?”… more here
We wish them all the best with helping to improve safety in New Zealand, it’s not an easy task given the degree of under-regulation of safety in the country.
In the meantime and until such time as things have improved, if you, or a family member, is planning an adventure tourism or working holiday in New Zealand perhaps you should consider somewhere with higher standards and where safety is regulated properly.
You may also be interested in
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.”
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.” The man was later named as Clifford Brabet. People at the park voiced concerns about safety and overcrowding before the fall.
Australian Tourist Injured In Bungy Accident, Another Has Collapsed Lung – Updated (May 2010)
Another Tourist Dies in New Zealand – Trainee Doctor Tom Donaldson killed at sand dunes (Feb 2009)
- Furious parents lash PM (nzherald.co.nz)