Firms up fight against drugs, booze


Drug and alcohol tests are now standard practice at leading Queenstown tourism firms - and
staff are walking as a result.

Ngai Tahu Tourism, NZONE, Shotover Canyon Swing and Skyline all confirm tests have become routine over the past two years. Earnslaw operator Real Journeys pioneered testing in 2007.

At Ngai Tahu Tourism (NTT) several staff in each business – Shotover Jet, Dart River Jet Safaris and the company’s smaller tourism firms - are tested fortnightly, group boss David Kennedy says.

“We do pre-employment, random and post-incident tests.”

Canyon Swing does six to 20 tests annually, boss Matt Hollyer  says, while Skyline chief Jeff
Staniland says testing’s “a regular occurrence”.

NZONE staff are tested before being hired and after that they’re tested at least once a year, spokesperson Derek Melnick says.

Real Journeys’ testing contractor “has our employee list and randomly selects about six people each month”, personnel boss Kevin Sharpe says.

There are also pre-employment and post-incident tests for staff. 

At Skyline, Canyon Swing and NZONE, testing’s confined to staff in “safety-critical roles”, but everyone at NTT and Real Journeys is tested.

Kennedy: “I’ve been called into the little white van myself four times.”

Demands for adventure-tourism drug testing followed the 2010 Fox Glacier skydive and 2012 Carterton ballooning tragedies - in all 20 people died.

Balloon pilot Lance Hopping tested positive for cannabis and there was also cannabis evidence in the two skydive tandem masters.

In April’s Carterton inquest report, coroner Peter Ryan recommended Civil Aviation Authority regulations should require random testing.

Staniland: “Tourists put their faith and trust in operators so [the industry] has to be confident the people looking after guests are in a fit state to do so.”

Just having the testing regime in place changes staff behaviour, he says.

Sharpe: “We take a tough stance [on] anything that puts our customers’ and staff’s well-being at risk.

“Everyone in the industry should test - and randomly.”

Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd agrees.

“One of the appeals of New Zealand and Queenstown is that this is a safe place to visit.”

To any local tourism firm not presently testing, Budd says: “I’d encourage them to consider doing so.” 

Aviation and marine tourism operators must test under CAA and Maritime NZ regulations. 

Other adventure-activity firms are required by health and safety laws “to manage the drug and alcohol-related risks in their workplaces”.