Targeted review of the adventure activities regime

MBIE is undertaking a targeted review of the health and safety regulatory regime for adventure activities, looking at how it operates when activities take place in naturally-hazardous environments.

Following the Whakaari/White Island eruption on 9 December 2019, the Workplace Relations and Safety Minister directed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to undertake a targeted review the adventure activities regulatory regime.  

MBIE’s review considers whether unintended weaknesses exist in the adventure activities regime when adventure activities take place in naturally-hazardous environments.

The first phase of the targeted review is exploratory and tests for weaknesses. It involves analysis of the regulations and their implementation, along with analysis of the adventure activities register held by WorkSafe. It will also involve engagement with key stakeholders involved in implementing the regime.

Specific topics of interest include: regulatory definitions, the function and implementation of the safety audit scheme, the role of experts and monitoring and reporting.

Findings from phase one of the targeted review will be presented to Ministers towards the end of 2020. If weaknesses are found to exist in the regime then this may lead to a second phase of work to consider possible changes, and further information will be available.  We would expect to consult more broadly if phase two of work takes place.

MBIE’s targeted review is separate from the Coroner and WorkSafe NZ investigations which are examining the circumstances of the eruption and related deaths, and whether there are potential breaches of the law.

Scope of MBIE’s targeted review

The focus of the targeted review is adventure activities that intersect with natural hazards.

Overall the health and safety regulatory regime for adventure activities has led to a downward trend in related fatalities during the time when tourism grew strongly. But the Whakaari/White Island tragedy has shown the potential for catastrophic harm when adventure activities take place in naturally-hazardous environments. We want to understand if there are weaknesses in the regulatory regime when it comes to such situations.

When scoping the targeted review MBIE considered other options, including limiting the review to adventure activities solely on Whakaari/White Island, or a full post implementation review of the adventure activity regulations. In both options there was risk of overlapping with the on-going Coroner and WorkSafe NZ investigations.

The adventure activities regulatory regime

Adventure activities are activities which are paid for, involve the participant being guided or taught, are designed to deliberately expose the participant to serious risk, and in which failure of the provider’s management systems is likely to result in serious risk to the participant’s health and safety; and, in which the participant is deliberately exposed to dangerous terrain or waters.

Adventure activity operators must obtain a safety audit by an accredited safety auditor and be registered by WorkSafe as an adventure activities operator in order to offer their activities.

The health and safety regulatory regime for adventure activities is relatively new, introduced in 2011 and came fully into force in November 2014, following concerns over the management of risk in the adventure tourism sector.

Ongoing policy and monitoring function

MBIE’s ongoing policy and monitoring function means that when new regulations are implemented, a post-implementation review is scheduled. This ensures the regulations supporting the Health and Safety at Work Act are robust, comprehensive and fit for purpose. Post-implementation reviews are scheduled according to the length of time they’ve been in operation, their relative priorities and against the wider regulatory reform work programme.

Given the newness of the adventure activities regulatory regime the post implementation review has not yet been scheduled but it could be prioritised following the findings of the targeted review.

Reviews across Government

The Minister of Local Government is leading the group of Ministers responsible for matters relating to the economic and social recovery following the Whakaari/White Island eruption. The Minister of Local Government is also the territorial authority for Whakaari/White Island under the Local Government Act.

MBIE’s review is one of a range of projects taking place across government in response to the Whakaari/White Island eruption:

  • Department of Internal Affairs: future access to Whakaari/White Island and locations where other natural hazards exist and clarifying territorial authority functions for off-shore islands more generally
  • MBIE: targeted review of the health and safety regulatory regime for adventure activities where the activities intersect with natural hazards
  • WorkSafe NZ: reviewing how it administers the adventure activities regime and making process improvements as required
  • Department of Conservation: developing a framework for managing visitor risk from natural hazards in the conservation estate and online guidance around volcanic risk in Tongariro National Park.

The lead Government agency for the response to the Whakaari/White Island eruption is the Department of Internal Affairs.

Contact the team

If you have questions about the review, you can get in touch with the team at hswregs@mbie.govt.nz.

Last updated: 30 September 2020