Analysis of the adventure activities regime

MBIE has completed 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 Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety directed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to undertake a targeted review of the adventure activities regulatory regime.

The work considered whether weaknesses exist in the adventure activities regime when adventure activities take place in naturally-hazardous environments.

Findings from the targeted review were presented to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety in November 2020. Based on the findings, the Government announced that it planned to make improvements to the regime. MBIE undertook the second phase of work to develop proposals for change in more detail, targeted to areas identified in the review.

The Government has announced that public consultation on proposed changes to the adventure activities regime is now open. You can find information on the consultation and make a submission here:

Adventure Activities consultation

This work is separate from the Coroner investigation and WorkSafe NZ’s prosecutions into the Whakaari/White Island event which are examining the circumstances of the eruption and related deaths, and whether there are potential breaches of the law.

Developing proposals to strengthen the adventure activities regime

MBIE’s targeted review and an internal health check by WorkSafe into their administration of the adventure activities regime identified a number of similar actions to strengthen the adventure activities regime, including improved natural hazard management, improved regulatory leadership by the regulator, and reviews and/or changes to the audit safety standard, certification scheme and guidance materials.

MBIE and WorkSafe developed a consultation document for public consultation on potential changes to the regime. MBIE will be leading the consultation process. Following consultation, MBIE will develop advice on any proposed regulatory and implementation changes to the regime.

To help develop the proposals discussed in this document, MBIE convened an expert reference group. This group brought together lead industry bodies, academics and government experts to discuss how the adventure activities system could be shaped to continue driving improvements in safety in the sector.

The role of the expert reference group was to provide MBIE with independent advice about what issues were arising in the adventure activities regime and what the goals of any changes should be, and to provide feedback to help MBIE refine its proposed changes into the package presented here.

Group members include:

Member Position and organisation Area
Chris Roberts (Chair) CEO, Tourism Industry Aotearoa Industry
Andrew Leslie (Deputy Chair) Chief Executive, Recreation Aotearoa Industry
Sam Newtown Advocacy Manager, Recreation Aotearoa Industry
Lori Keller Industry Advocate, Tourism Industry Aotearoa Industry
Hoki-Mai Chong Chief Advisor, NZ Māori Tourism Industry
Gill Jolly Manager, Earth Structure and Processes Department, GNS Science Natural hazard risk management expert
Don Bogie Principal Advisor Visitor Risk, Department of Conservation Natural hazard risk management expert
Peter Mumford Policy Director, Science, Innovation and International, MBIE Regulatory design expert
Kathryn Lockyer General Manager Services, JAS-ANZ Accreditation and international standards
Simon Bannock Sector Manager, Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) Accreditation and international standards
Dr John McClure Emeritus Professor, School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington Academic
Douglas Pearce Emeritus Professor, School of Management, Victoria University of Wellington Academic
Chris Peace Lecturer, School of Health, Victoria University of Wellington Academic
Lisa Collins Manager, Health and Safety Policy, MBIE Government
Kelly Hanson-White Manager, Regulatory Frameworks, WorkSafe New Zealand Government

Findings from the targeted review

Read the targeted review of the adventure activities regulatory regime report [PDF, 697 KB]

The review found areas for improvement in the regime including:

  • increasing the regime’s focus on natural hazards
  • strengthening the regulatory leadership role of WorkSafe
  • improving the adventure activities audit process.

Proposals have been developed to strengthen the regime in these areas. The public can now have their say on any changes to the regime, as part of a public consultation process. You can find information on the consultation and make a submission here:

Adventure Activities consultation

The targeted review noted there are also a number of system-level issues in the design of the adventure activities regulatory system requiring more consideration. These include that:

  • the regulatory definition of “adventure activity” is not sufficiently clear
  • the regime’s reliance on third party certification bodies may not be sustainable
  • third party certification may not be the most effective way to achieve regime objectives.

These system-level issues will be considered as part of a first principles review of the regulations beginning in 2026.

About the review

The targeted review of the adventure activities regulatory regime was conducted between August and December 2020 and considered whether weaknesses exist in the regime where adventure activities take place in naturally hazardous environments.

The review examined both regulatory settings and the roles and responsibilities of organisations involved in the implementation of the regime.

Specific questions examined by the review include:

  • To what extent do adventure activities in New Zealand experience risks from natural hazards? What activities face risks of catastrophic harm if natural hazards are not managed appropriately?
  • How does the adventure activities regulatory regime operate to manage risks where activities intersect with natural hazards? What are the roles and responsibilities of the organisations involved in the regime (WorkSafe, auditors and operators) to identify and manage these hazards? 
  • Is anything missing from the adventure activities regulatory regime that increases the chance of catastrophic events occurring when adventure activities operate on/near natural hazards? Are more specific roles or specific controls for the management of natural hazard risks needed?

The targeted review involved analysis of the regulations and their implementation, along with natural hazard analysis. It also involved engagement with key stakeholders involved in implementing the regime.

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.

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 is leading an independent review of whether WorkSafe has carried out its obligations appropriately in relation to Whakaari/White Island.

Read more about the independent review

Other projects taking place across government in response to the Whakaari/White Island eruption include:

  • Department of Internal Affairs: will be in future working collaboratively with other agencies regarding future access to Whakaari/White Island
  • 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.

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: 24 September 2021