25 May 2024

Extreme cross country organiser's 'natural disaster' cancellation claim questioned

7:11 pm on 25 May 2024
muddy legs

A parent whose children were booked to take part in a Tough Guy and Gal Challenge in Lower Hutt on Wednesday, which was cancelled by the organisers at the last minute, says the event was promoted as something that would go ahead "rain or shine". File photo. Photo: Josh Calabrese / Unsplash

Organisers of a children's extreme cross country event cancelled the first Lower Hutt portion, claiming it was due to a natural disaster.

The Tough Guy and Gal Challenge competitors, who are primary school-aged children, run through swamps, streams and mud.

But Event Promotions called off its first Lower Hutt event on Wednesday at the last minute, telling families via a last minute email as well as social media posts that "a natural disaster" had occurred at Camp Wainui in Wainuiomata.

Tereza and her two children, aged eight and 10, had just arrived at the race site and were surprised to be turned away.

They were told via email the next day's event in Lower Hutt was fully booked but they could transfer their booking to events later in the week in Palmerston North or Hawke's Bay.

No refund was offered.

Tereza, who had taken a day off work to drive her children to Lower Hutt, said travelling outside the Wellington region would be "out of the question".

The way it was cancelled was "disappointing" and "dishonest", she said.

"The word they stressed [in their first email] was natural disaster and that seemed dishonest. It felt a bit of a stretch of the truth to say that a natural disaster had occurred in Lower Hutt."

Tereza and her son and daughter spent the day in the area, walking Department of Conservation tracks.

She said they noticed "a bit more water in the stream but all nearby roads and tracks were open".

Organisers told RNZ in an email that "fast flowing streams" due to heavy rain overnight had flooded the whole camp, making it too unsafe to proceed.

Registration manager Khushali Patel said communications were also down which was why notification of the cancellation had come through late.

"All staff [are] stuck inside the campsite grounds and we are having to carefully walk to the road to get signal to contact everyone."

A later email to parents offered a 50 percent refund, and explained that excessive rain causing flooding throughout the venue "is considered a 'natural' misfortune in the eyes of Health and Safety".

The decision to cancel was not taken lightly, organisers said in their second email to parents and caregivers.

"We too are upset that in the 30 years that this event has operated, this was the 1st cancellation of our Junior TGGC Event."

Tereza said registrations cost $30 but it was not the money itself that was the key issue.

She said the event was promoted as something that would go ahead "rain or shine".

"The picture in my mind was getting muddy and dirty and that's why it's called the Tough Guy and Gal challenge, so that was part of the disappointment."