The Government’s tough new adventure tourism regulations may ensnare the Queenstown riverboarder who triggered them.
Brad McLeod faces a ban because of his company’s involvement in the 2008 drowning of English tourist Emily Jordan.
Proposed regulations drawn up as a direct result of Jordan’s death say adventure tourism operators may be banned if their “previous negligence has endangered, or may have endangered, a person’s life”.
McLeod’s Mad Dog River Boarding company faced two Health & Safety In Employment charges brought by Maritime New Zealand over the Jordan tragedy.
Midway through an August 2009 trial, guilty pleas were entered and the company was ordered to pay $80,000 reparation and a fine of $66,000.
Prolonged public protests by Jordan’s distraught father – particularly an open letter to Prime Minister John Key – saw the Government announce an adventure tourism review.
With the resulting new regime coming in on October 1, the Tourism Industry Association expects the final regulations to be announced next week.
TIA’s Geoff Ensor says he’s heard nothing to suggest the “previous negligence” provision will be watered down.
Mad Dog River Boarding, renamed The River Boarding Co., resumed summer operations soon after the 2009 trial.
This week Mountain Scene contacted McLeod in Wellington, where he’s wintering by working on the movie set of The Hobbit.
He confirms he’s applying for accreditation under the new regime. “We have no choice, we have to apply.”
Prohibition arising from previous negligence is news to him, McLeod says, “but from what you’ve told me, there’s nothing there that concerns me in any way”.
“I don’t think I fall under that category – there’s been no negligence ever proven against me in any way whatsoever,” he says.
The $80,000 reparation and $66,000 fine arose from “a plea bargain”, McLeod maintains.
The reparation was paid immediately by his insurers and he’s personally paying off the $66,000 fine over three years.
“As part of the [plea bargain],” McLeod claims, “Maritime NZ wouldn’t let me close [down operations].
“If I’d gone bankrupt, I wouldn’t be able to pay the fine.”
About $22,000 of that is still owing, he estimates – it will take another year to pay off.
Riverboarding was branded “high risk” by Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson when announcing the new adventure tourism regime last December.
Around 10,000 thrillseekers riverboard in Queenstown each year.