27 Jun 2019

Cape Kidnappers: DOC admits to 'significant failures' in assessing risk

6:06 pm on 27 June 2019

The Department of Conservation has admitted it failed to properly assess the risk of the Cape Kidnappers track before a massive slip came down earlier this year.

Cape Kidnappers signage

Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

The walk to the gannet colony has been closed since 23 January, when a rockfall swept two tourists into the sea, although the council re-opened beach access earlier this month.

An internal DOC investigation into the rockfall released today found those tasked with the job of assessing the risks only looked at the 1.5km stretch managed by the department - not the total 9km walk.

DOC's director of heritage and visitors, Steve Taylor, said there were significant failures.

"The report is clear that some of our systems let us down and needed to be improved," Mr Taylor said.

"We are working to make sure this happens as soon as possible and will be actioning all of the recommendations in the report.

"DOC accepts there were significant failures in assessing the risk of the Cape Kidnappers track and we should not have promoted it as a Day Hike as this may have led people to believe it was without risk."

Mr Taylor said DOC had carried out full safety assessments of all short walks promoted last year and overhauled the way it assessed risk.

It was also working with GNS to standardise the way geological risk assessments were carried out.

"Most visitor sites have some degree of natural hazard risks which cannot be totally eliminated. DOC's role is to assess them properly so people can make an informed choice about whether to participate or not," Mr Taylor said.

"We accept we did not act on this assessment in the way we should have," he said.

"It's clear that this was a complex case involving multiple landowners and varying levels of risk. DOC needed to have a better overview of all the different pieces before pushing ahead with promoting the walk."

"Visitor safety is an immediate priority and we are sorry that people were caught in this natural rockfall. No-one wants to see anyone get hurt."

Meanwhile, the DOC section of the Cape Kidnappers walk will remain closed until a complete risk analysis is completed.

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