Targeted review of the adventure activities regime

MBIE has undertaken 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.

The review considers whether weaknesses exist in the adventure activities regime when adventure activities take place in naturally-hazardous environments. The first phase of the review is now complete.

Findings from phase one were presented to the Workplace Relations and Safety Minister towards the end of 2020. Based on the findings, the Government announced that it plans to make improvements to the regime.  MBIE has now begun the second phase of work to develop options for change in more detail. The Government has indicated that changes to the regime would be open for public consultation in the first half of 2021.

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

Phase two: options to strengthen the adventure activities regime

MBIE’s targeted review and WorkSafe’s internal health check 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 will work together to develop a discussion document for public consultation on potential changes to the regime. We will develop and present policy options for consultation and, following consultation, will coordinate in developing advice on any proposed regulatory and implementation changes to the regime. 

The specific areas that will be considered in phase two of the targeted review are:

  • Clarifying and strengthening requirements for how operators manage natural hazard risks
  • Examining WorkSafe’s regulatory leadership role
  • Public transparency and performance
  • Considering how the regime is funded

To support the development of the discussion document MBIE has established an expert reference group. This group will assist in identifying potential changes to the regime and provide initial feedback on policy proposals. This group will help ensure that the proposals presented for public consultation reflect a range of viewpoints on how the regime should function, are informed by industry best practice and are credible to stakeholders.

The expert reference group will be convened between March and July. 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 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 phase one

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

The review found that the adventure activities regulatory regime has led to a downtrend in fatalities – but natural hazard risks are pervasive across the adventure activity sector. Areas for improvement in the regime were identified in the review, these include:

  • strengthening the regulatory leadership role of WorkSafe,
  • increasing the safety audit standard’s focus on natural hazards,
  • improving the adventure activities certification scheme.

Options to improve the regime will be developed as part of phase two of the review. The public will be able to have their say on any changes to the regime, as part of a consultation in the first half of 2021.

Several system level issues were also identified as part of the review, which will be considered as part of a first principles review of the regulatory scheme in the future.

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 examines 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: 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

Last updated: 12 April 2021