Summary of the review
As part of the Government response to the Whakaari/White Island eruption, the previous Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety directed the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment to complete a targeted review on the adventure activities regulatory regime (the regime).
The review considers whether weaknesses exist where adventure activities intersect with natural hazards. The regime includes both the Adventure Activities Regulations and how they are implemented.
The regime is generally performing well
Based on a qualitative assessment, the regime is in many respects performing well and supporting policy objectives of increasing safety standards. Since the regime has been implemented, fatality numbers in the adventure activity sector have reduced, and stakeholders indicate that the regime is driving operators to improve their safety management systems. However, adventure activities continue to carry an inherent risk of catastrophic events, and the Whakaari/White Island tragedy suggests catastrophic events may continue to sporadically occur in the sector despite the adventure activities regime.
Analysis indicates that natural hazard risks are pervasive across the adventure activity sector, and suggests that all identified natural hazards have some inherent risk of causing catastrophic harm. The degree and type of risk differs according to the natural hazard and the nature and location of activities taking place. Control measures can be used to lower the inherent level of risk.
Some aspects could be strengthened
The review has identified that some aspects of the regime could be strengthened to help operators better identify and manage risks from natural hazards. 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
The review also identified several system-level issues in the design and implementation of the regime that merit further consideration. These issues may challenge the long-term sustainability of the regime and limit the extent to which it achieves its objectives. These issues include:
- The regime’s reliance on third party certification bodies may not be sustainable
- The regulatory definition of “adventure activity” is not sufficiently clear
- Third party certification may not be the most effective way to achieve regime objectives
Further work on the regime will occur in two stages:
- Work to address the regime’s limitations around natural hazard risk management and audit processes will commence immediately. A public consultation document with detailed proposals for how the regime can be improved in these areas will be released in the first half of 2021
- The system-level issues identified in the regime will be examined in a first-principles review of the regime starting in 2023. As these issues relate to the longer-term sustainability and optimisation of the regime, rather than immediately addressing risks, a longer, more detailed process is appropriate.