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Astrid Anderson Fallout Begins


Astrid Anderson Fallout Begins

ACT New Zealand Sport Spokesman Stephen Franks today described the cancellation of the 40-year-old Akaroa Harbour endurance race as a tragedy.

"It is not a tragedy that yachties won't get wet, cold and drunk. The tragedy is the reason given by the organisers - the Akaroa Lions Club - that the legal risks are now too great. I predicted this well before the conviction of Le Race organiser Astrid Anderson," Mr Franks said.

"Law that punishes volunteers who organise recreational and sporting events will alter the way New Zealanders choose to live their lives and spend their free time. Today's parents will be the last generation of New Zealanders who can genuinely claim the national character - stoic, adventurous, and good off the tarmac.

"The canning of this race is just the beginning. We will see pupils denied school camping trips because there is no one to lead them, and kids unable to play sport because the risk to volunteer coaches are too great.

"No one excuses recklessness, and everyone feels for victims of unintended harm, but law punishing inadvertent mistakes steals freedom from every Kiwi. It steals our freedom to let someone organise something, or to let us do something that could hurt. Most volunteers will only do something for us if we accept the risk they might make a mistake. All we ask is that they act in good faith, taking the same care they would for themselves or their family. Our side of the bargain is to accept responsibility for misfortune when we have taken the risk. Using criminal law against them means they'll stop offering, and we lose the choice.

"Volunteers exposed to unlimited liability and criminal prosecution if something goes wrong won't volunteer. Why should they? Most accidents look avoidable in hindsight.

"When volunteers must be paid to take these risks, we deprive New Zealanders of activities that are part of our national character and lifestyle. Our least well off suffer first. We can't afford to do everything we've traditionally done for ourselves, or each other, if they can only be done by paid experts. Paid experts pass on their costs, including insurance premiums.

"ACT is committed to cutting red tape and protecting the New Zealand traditions of community self help, and volunteering. If official race organisers are priced or frightened off the market, some people will still race. But, like `boy racer' racing, it will be `illegal', `unauthorised' and probably more dangerous," Mr Franks said.

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