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Race guilty verdict a disaster for all NZ events

Race guilty verdict a disaster for all NZ events

The death of Vanessa Caldwell is a tragedy, but Astrid Christine Andersen's conviction for criminal nuisance is a disaster for all New Zealand events organisers and participants, Green MP and multi-sports veteran Mike Ward MP said today.

"While it is important that all reasonable steps are taken to keep participants safe, many events organisers - already made nervous by recent changes to the law requiring additional expense and safeguards - are likely to pull the plug on their involvement in light of this decision," the Green sport and fitness spokesperson said.

"As organiser of New Zealand's longest-running multi-sports event, the Nelson Iron People Race, I am unlikely to proceed with next year's event. I imagine others will feel the same, which is sad in view of the exceptional safety record for events, where there is in reality considerable scope for things to go wrong."

Le Race organiser Astrid Andersen was found guilty of criminal nuisance on Saturday by a Christchurch District Court jury for the death of Vanessa Caldwell, a cyclist in the event in 2001.

"The importance of this case to the future of events, and the importance of such events to sport, recreation, and tourism in New Zealand cannot be underestimated," Mr Ward said.

"In light of the fact that police took a year to decide to press charges, and the jury clearly had difficulty reaching a verdict, all events participants and organisers have an interest in the verdict being tested in an appeal court, and in getting together to study what can be done to ensure that future events proceed.

"Due to the more than two years of anguish suffered by Astrid Andersen since the accident, the criminal conviction, and the many tens of thousands of dollars in court costs, Astrid Andersen can be expected to be reluctant to want to take the case further; unless events participants and organisers recognise that the case and any appeal would in fact be contested on behalf of all of us.

"As has been pointed out by others, this case is not just about higher-risk sporting activities. It affects every sporting, recreational or cultural event in this country."

Mr Ward will seek a meeting with the Minister of Sport, and with Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) officials to discuss the implications of the verdict, and examine options for restoring confidence in the events sector.

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