27 Feb 2019

Cape Kidnappers reaction a 'health and safety overload' - Hastings councillor

3:05 pm on 27 February 2019

A Hastings district councillor is accusing the Conservation Department of an over-the-top reaction to safety at Cape Kidnappers.

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DOC is carrying out an investigation of the Cape Kidnappers walk and the other Great Day Walks are also being reviewed. Photo: Supplied / Hastings District Council

The beach remains closed until a geotechnical survey is completed by Hastings District Council.

Two tourists were seriously injured by a massive slip while walking to the cape's gannet colony last month. RNZ revealed that before the tourists were injured, DOC had identified the potential for slips and rockfalls in the area as unacceptable risks to the public.

More than a dozen walks promoted under the Department for Conservation's Great Short and Day Walks banner are being reviewed to ensure risk assessments were properly done.

Councillor Rod Heaps, a former owner of tourism firm Gannet Beach Adventures, said visitors on day walks were often not experienced trampers and DOC should be focusing on telling them about the risks.

"There is virtually no warnings at all anywhere in regards to signage for anybody starting that walk that didn't know about it."

He had seen people out for a day walk who didn't take care in the tide, walked in jandals and had no water with them.

But he said any suggestion of banning people going along the cliff line to the gannet colony for safety reasons would be "crazy".

"Four people have been injured and yet thousands and thousands and thousands of visitors have actually frequented that coastline."

"Our country is getting into a health and safety overload where somebody has to be responsible for any risk that occurs."

But Gannet Beach Adventures' current owner Colin Lindsay told RNZ yesterday the documents released by DOC confirmed his fears that the inclusion of the Cape Kidnappers walk in its marketing campaign was rushed and ill-thought out. He said he was waiting for the geotechnical report before assessing his future.

Mr Lindsay has said he warned DOC about the dangers of including Cape Kidnappers in its Great Walks campaign because of the unstable cliffs and the danger it presented to the public.

DOC first identified the walk as a "significant" and "unacceptable risk" in 2009. Another risk assessment in 2017 came to the same conclusion and recommended a geotechnical report of the hazards along the entire walk be carried out, but it was not done.

Mr Heaps said it was fine for people to walk along the beach "but they've got to understand what the coastline is made of. It's a risk - we've got risks all over our country and DOC are well aware of that, they've got them all through the national parks and everywhere."