We can’t be waiting for Wellington

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Government adventure-tourism regulators are behind the eight-ball so Queenstown Lakes District Council should step in.

That’s from local tourism safety consultant Stefan Crawford, after Monday’s Beehive announcement of an adventure tourism shakeup.

With summer coming we can’t wait for Wellington, he says, because adventure tourism is foreign to government departments.

“The regulators have relative inexperience in investigating and pursuing operators.”

Crawford, an expert witness for Maritime New Zealand in a current prosecution, includes the national water cops.

“Yes, I believe [MNZ is] under-resourced in [adventure tourism] expertise.”

While Wellington gets up to speed, QLDC could intervene immediately, he says.

Crawford wants QLDC to set up some­thing like Film Queenstown for adventure tourism – “A go-to organisation [pointing] operators in the right direction [for] auditing advice, compliance, ongoing training … and potentially regulating adventure tourism.”

QLDC can audit via resource consents, he believes.

A raft guide from 1990, Crawford, 41, saw QLDC gradually regulate whitewater rafting after a string of deaths and injuries on the Shotover River in the mid-1990s. Local bylaws eventually became national MNZ regulations.
The tragedies back then prompted Crawford to sell his own rafting business after fatalities involv­ing cowboy companies dam­­aged the industry’s reputation.

Tourists often don’t differentiate in adventure tourism accidents, Crawford says – a river­­­­ boarding death can affect rafting and jetboating.

He welcomes Key’s inquiry: “Modern society doesn’t accept fatalities in leisure or recreation. If we continue to have accidents, incidents and fatalities in adventure tourism – we all stand to lose.”

Crawford believes “ignorance, naivety and complacency” exist among adventure operators.

He’s particularly keen on guides “qualifying” punters. It worried him when guiding for other raft companies. “It was the frequency we were seeing people [who] I and a number of other guides believed weren’t qualified to raft the Shotover River.”

Operators must say: “This is a Grade Five river we’re going to raft or river board. You need to be able to swim, support your own weight. We need to make it clear to the customer that you may not be suitable for this trip.”