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River Rescue Training Workshop


River Rescue Training Workshop

A river rescue training workshop focusing on safety within the river boarding and sledging industry will be held in Queenstown this weekend (22-23 November).

The workshop, facilitated by the New Zealand Rafting Association and sponsored by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), will take place on the Kawarau River and involve around 30 local guides along with several North Island industry representatives.

It will see those involved in the river boarding and sledging community gain valuable rescue training from some of the country’s top white-water rafting experts.

River boarding, sledging, surfing or “hydro-speeding” involves participants riding a flotation board down white-water rivers. Commercial tourism operations are in place on several New Zealand rivers.

The course will involve on-water, scenario-based training. Similar exercises are held by the rafting association for its members each year, but this weekend’s workshop marks the first time such large-scale training has been undertaken by the river boarding or sledging industry.

NZ Rafting Association Chairperson Grant South says the association is pleased to be involved and have its members’ skills acknowledged outside of the rafting sector.

“Our rescue workshops are based on years of learning outcomes from past incidences and accidents which have helped us develop proactive rescue techniques developed by industry for industry. We see this workshop as bringing together two industries for the benefit of water based tourism.”

MNZ Safety Auditor Colin Sonneveld says it is good to see industry working with MNZ to continually improve safety standards, and to see the river boarding and river rafting communities coming together to share their rescue knowledge.

“Commercial river boarding and river sledging operations have been around since 1989, but they are still relatively under-represented activities in New Zealand. There are only a few operators throughout the country and, although each operation has had its own internal training system and operating plans, up until now there have not been any formal guidelines.

“Tapping into the expertise held by the rafting industry – which is comparatively far more established – is a good way to build up rescue knowledge and skills within the river boarding community.”

Mr Sonneveld says the developments are part of an industry-wide safety review that has been undertaken following the investigation into the death of English tourist Emily Jordan while river boarding on the Kawarau River in Queenstown on 29 April 2008.

“As part of the review, safety guidelines are being developed in consultation with industry, including commercial operators and guides, the Tourism Industry Association and Qualmark. The guidelines aim to improve safety for river boarding and river sledging operations, and help build consistency throughout the industry.”

Mr Sonneveld says it is hoped the safety guidelines will be in place by the end of 2008.

There is also potential for the development of a national qualification structure, Mr Sonneveld says.


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