Tuesday, February 27, 2024

White Island tragedy prompts new rules for adventure activity sector

The Government has committed to a strengthening of safety regulations following reviews of the Whakaari White Island tragedy, with the improved requirements to come into effect from April next year.

“The Whakaari White Island disaster made clear that further action was needed to ensure what happened to the victims, their families and the community that day does not happen again,” said Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Carmel Sepuloni.

“Adventure activity operators will now be required by law to communicate serious risks to customers, meaning prospective participants can be fully informed of risks before buying a ticket, in the time before the activity begins and throughout the activity, including if the risks change.”

The Minister said operators will be required to take all reasonable steps to inform participants of the risks they may be exposed to ahead of participating in the activity.

WorkSafe will also receive expanded powers so that they can suspend operations immediately where there is an imminent serious risk. WorkSafe can also suspend, cancel, or refuse registration applications when operators cannot provide activities safely.

“Operators will now be required to monitor risks arising from natural hazards where an activity is to take place and have clear criteria for postponing, cancelling, or moving activities should the risk change,” said Minister Sepuloni.

“Adventure activities are a major draw card for international tourists looking to come to New Zealand and result in significant economic opportunities in our regions. With our tourism numbers continuing to bounce back, these changes will help keep them safe and maintain the high reputation of our Adventure Tourism Industry across the globe. 

“Most adventure activity operators are already following good practice and will only need to make minor adjustments to their safety systems. These changes will help standardise those practices across the sector.”

Guidance will be available to support operators to implement the changes they need to make to comply with the new regulations, the Minister said.

Further detailed guidance on managing natural hazard risks and activity-specific safety guidance is also being developed to help operators follow good practice.

The changes are being introduced today and will be enforced from April 2024, giving operators time to make the appropriate adjustments to their operations.

A further full review of the adventure activities regulations is scheduled to begin in 2026.

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