8 May 2012

DoC defends changes over missing trampers

5:05 am on 8 May 2012

The Department of Conservation says cost-cutting and avoiding responsibility are not behind its decision to change the way missing trampers are reported.

Earlier in May, DoC replaced its old hard copy forms which trampers use to give emergency contact details directly to the department with an online service, adventuresmart.co.nz, that is used to give details to family and friends.

Former DoC worker Graeme Kates says the change was introduced because the department is worried it could be held responsible if a tramper died after it failed to report them missing.

Mr Kates told Nine to Noon on Monday he believes someone will eventually die in a national park who could have been saved if the old system had been retained.

He says he resigned from DoC in protest over the new system and believes tourists will have difficulty using it properly because of language and time zone barriers.

"Some poor sod is going to be out there in the park who potentially could have been saved had a system been in place or they actually used the system. And we're going to have yet another fatality in the park as a consequence."

Mr Kates has started a petition against the new system.

New Zealand Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton says the change was made because the old system cost the department too much time and money.

But DoC's visitor services manager Gavin Walker says the old approach was confusing for visitors because the process varied between regions.

Mr Walker says the new system means trampers know exactly what they are required to do before heading into the bush.