Everybody will tighten up a notch

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Even professional Queens­town companies will benefit from a new safety review into adventure tourism, released this week. 

So says Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand sector head Geoff Gabites. 

The Government’s review recommends compulsory regis­­tration and safety audits for every adventure operator. 

It was ordered by Prime Minister John Key after an anguished letter from the father of English backpacker Emily Jordan, who drowned on a Mad Dog River Boarding trip in Queens­town two years ago. 

“I think it will have every­body tighten up their systems another notch, even Queens­town, because you’ve got great operators but some of them have had incidents,” Christ­church-based Gabites says. 

He refers to “leading-edge” companies such as Kawarau Jet, Shotover Jet and Skytrek Tandem Hang Gliding, which have all suffered deaths. 

“It just resharpens the focus,” Gabites says. 

Queenstown is fortunate it has a “very tight” sales distribution network that promotes recognised professional companies, he adds. 

Gabites: “If you go to the [rest of] NZ, there is the ability for someone to start up a business without anything.” 

Local adventure consultant Stefan Crawford, speaking on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, said an industry-wide licensing body should be set up, such as Britain has. “That way you have one rule for all.” 

Gabites disagrees. “It’s hard enough to make sense of what’s out there [now]. 

“The UK model isn’t one you go to with a great degree of comfort.” 

Local Tourism NZ board member and bungy pioneer Henry van Asch welcomes consistency. “We have to make sure that the [adventure tourism] proposition is high-quality and that means very safe, even if people have to pay a little bit more to get assurances they are going to make it out the other end. 

“I’m just a little wary of having too many regulations and too many bodies for everybody to belong to because it just might push the price up too far, and a risk with that is our international competitiveness.” 

The Depart­ment of Labour will report on the safety review recommendations by November 30.