Tourists should check if operators registered - Iain Lees-Galloway

10:41 am on 18 December 2019

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway is urging tourists to ask adventure companies whether they are registered before booking or using their services.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and National Party leader Simon Bridges.

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and National Party leader Simon Bridges. Photo: RNZ/Dom Thomas

Questions are being asked whether rules covering adventure tourism are adequate a week on from the Whaakari / White Island eruption.

The regulations require adventure companies to pass safety audits and be registered by WorkSafe.

Iain Lees-Galloway told Morning Report he wants people to take responsibility this summer while investigations took place.

He said adventure tourism employers and operators had health and safety obligations.

"My advice to anybody who is looking to participate in an adventure activity this summer ask their operator if they are registered because being registered is a strong indication that those operators take health and safety seriously."

He said people should raise the question at the time of booking an activity.

"I think that is a legitimate question that operators should be prepared to answer."

He wouldn't say if operators who weren't registered appropriately be shut down, but said it was up to WorkSafe to ensure regulations were followed.

"I expect WorkSafe to be able to make those decisions."

Not all companies on the island at the time of the eruption were registered as adventure tourism operators, thereby missing out on regular audits.

White Island Tours was the only company registered.

"I've had no information to suggest that the audits were deficient."

"WorkSafe's role is to look at the activities of all the parties involved and determine whether or not they met their obligations under the regulations," he said.

"There are questions and we need to go through a proper process to determine whether or not those regulations are fit for purpose."

He said he didn't anticipate tours resuming in the near future.

For National Party leader Simon Bridges however, a family visit to the island was not a consideration.

Bridges said it was "staggering" that the minister was casting doubt on adventure tourism operators.

"He's implying that those who aren't registered are unsafe and operating in New Zealand. I have no reason to believe that is true," he said.

"On the face of it, if you look at the rules we have in place in this area - white water rafting, parachuting and the like - I think it is a safe regime. There may be questions post White Island."

He said an independent inquiry was needed to determine whether tourists should have been allowed on the island.

"I don't have any reason to believe there are problems and issues."

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