2 Aug 2013

Father doesn't believe outdoor centre has changed

8:40 am on 2 August 2013

A man whose son drowned off New Plymouth almost a year ago says the outdoor centre held responsible needs new leaders before it can improve.

Spotswood College students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo and their instructor Bryce Jourdain drowned during a rock climbing activity at Paritutu Rock on 8 August 2012.

Stephen's father Bruce Gedye says the Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre (Topec) made a series of mistakes and he doesn't think the safety culture will change with the same bosses in place.

Although the centre has admitted it failed in its safety duties, and is yet to be sentenced in court, Mr Gedye says there's been no accountability.

Topec has refused to comment but continues to runs camps and outdoor courses for Taranaki secondary schools. Matt Lash, who is in charge of PE and Outdoor Education at Opunake High School and is on the board of Topec, says his school and the centre have reviewed systems and there's less of a 'she'll be right' attitude.

Regulations will lift safety standards, says ministry

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says regulations soon to be introduced for adventure activity operators will significantly raise the bar for safety.

All adventure tourist operators and outside providers will need to be certified and audited under the scheme, expected to be finalised by next month.

The ministry's acting general manager of health and safety, Colin Meehan, says the regulations will introduce minimum standards and stricter auditing.

The Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits Centre had passed an audit shortly before the deaths last August. Mr Meehan says the auditors will now also be audited and that will give schools using outdoor centres more assurance.

Submissions on the draft regulations close next week.