18 Mar 2014

Adventure tourism audits on hold

3:25 pm on 18 March 2014

The company that audits adventure tourism operators has suspended its business because it says it has not received enough funding and support from the Government.

The mandatory safety audits were put in place after a man whose daughter died while riverboarding on the Kawerau River in 2009 wrote to John Key in his role as Tourism Minister.

Whitewater rafting.

Whitewater rafting. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Outdoors New Zealand, which runs the OutdoorsMark audits, has put its business on hold pending a full review of its finances.

It says it struggled to keep up with demand and was refused funding from Worksafe New Zealand to keep the audits going.

A spokesperson says Outdoors New Zealand did not expect Worksafe to bankroll the project but it was surprised it was not assisted, given it was the only auditor.

It says there were supposed to be other companies doing the work as well.

Company chair Josie Ogden Schroeder described Worksafe as "short-sighted".

Worksafe says Outdoors New Zealand is a commercial business and it has provided considerable support to the company.

About 500 adventure-tourism operators were expected to be audited by November this year but so far just 39 have been audited.

Chris Jordan, whose daughter Emily drowned on the Kawarau River, says he is appalled the Government is not giving more funding to the auditing of adventure-tourism operators.

Mr Jordan told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme he was sick of politicians saying the scheme is to protect the reputation of adventure tourism.

"What this is about is actually protecting the lives of the young people who come to New Zealand to partake in these activities.

"That's what this is set up for. It's nothing to do with reputation. The reputation will then follow on. You only get reputation by having a good system."

Mr Jordan says the Government's lack of support is an insult to the families of people who have lost loved ones.

A four-wheel-drive tourism operator in Upper Hutt, Andy Cockroft, says that means his audit is in limbo.

"I've been operating four-wheel-drives for the best part of 50 years and all of a sudden I find myself with a bureaucratic full-stop in front of me not knowing which way things are going to go."

Mr Cockroft says the situation is embarrassing for the Government, given it was the brain behind the auditing system.

Greg McIntyre, who owns mountain biking company Fat Tyres Adventures, says there are concerns in the industry about the suspension of safety audits but that it is a chance to look at changing the process.

Mr McIntyre believes Outdoors New Zealand's business model needs to be looked at.

Mr Key is overseas and the Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges, has not been available to comment.