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Speech to ‘The Great Adventure’ Tourism Leaders’ Conference

Hon Simon Bridges

Minister of Labour


Speech to ‘The Great Adventure’ Tourism Leaders’ Conference


I want to thank you all for the opportunity to be here today.

I know that in this room sit many of the leaders of the Adventure Activities sector.

As leaders, you will be seeking clarity from the Government on the new Adventure Activity health and safety regime and I want to give you that today.

We have four new audit providers on board.

The new audit providers are taking bookings, and every operator is getting free support from the Government; there’s a financial incentive in place.

There is time. It can be done. It will be done. 1 November is not shifting.

The path we are on will see New Zealand take the international lead in the adventure tourism and outdoors sector.

What we’re doing is being closely watched around the globe.

We have always had the raw materials – innovation, stunning locations and a can-do mentality.

But that’s not enough.

These regulations are about safety, protecting people as well as protecting our reputation, and protecting your livelihoods.

There is no place for cowboys in this sector. They’re out.

There’s no place for ‘I’ve always done it this way and I’ve never had an accident, so I don’t need to change’. That’s out.

The only way forward for New Zealand’s adventure activities sector is a sustainable, consistent, auditable, enforceable regulatory system in which everybody is doing things the right way every time, and they’ve got the documented systems to prove it.

Is it going to save lives? Yes, it is.

That’s reason enough.

But if you want some more, let’s look at the size of this sector.

Tourism, as a whole, brought in $9.8 billion to our economy in the year to March. It accounts for 16.1 percent of our export revenue and 5.7 percent of our workforce.

The Government’s eye is on making that an even bigger prize.

In 2013 we committed to investing an additional $158 million into tourism over four years.

That included $44.5 million to attract visitors from emerging markets like India, Indonesia and Latin America, and $24.5 million to boost existing markets like Australia, the US and the UK.

Twenty million more is going into attracting premium visitors – the kind who travel by private jet, buy your premium products, and have the potential to build strong business connections.

We’re putting $34 million into attracting high value business events to New Zealand, and $28 million into partnering with businesses to lift innovation and productivity through the Tourism Growth partnership.

Adventure tourism’s an important part of all of that. We’re competing with the world for the tourism dollar.

With every accident, every death, we erode our reputation, we erode confidence in our products, and we erode our own futures. But you know that.

What we will achieve is the professionalisation of Adventure Activities.
The Tourism Industry Association has played a significant role in the development of this future.

It has taken responsibility for raising awareness of the regime among operators, both from the adventure tourism and the outdoors sectors; and from within and without its own membership.

The central information point for the regime has been the supportadventure website set up and administered by the TIA, and that was consciously done.
This regime has not been done ‘to’ the sector; it has been done with the sector.

The last word on best practice in priority activities – the Activity Safety Guidelines or AGSs – have been written by the sector, for the sector.

You have pulled together activity experts and wrangled topics like caving, abseiling, heli-skiing, high wire and, soon I understand, diving, to reach consensus-based agreement on best practice, from within.

I commend that effort.

What’s important for us all now is giving that work life by achieving our 1 November deadline.

We are under the spotlight.

To date about 70 operators have or are very close to achieving registration.
Around 350 operators have yet to pass a safety audit and become registered.
Yes, the process slowed for a few months while we have been without an audit provider, but we are now picking up the pace.

It was never the intention that the scheme would depend on just one provider, but a huge amount of work has been going on behind the scenes to resolve this issue in good time, and that’s now behind us.

I want to also be very clear that this regime has been signalled for three years.

There has been ample time for all operators to get ready for audit.

By my reckoning, every single notified operator should have been sitting with their Safety Management Plans in hand waiting for the announcement of new recognised audit providers.

Whether or not that’s the case, we now have four new providers on board and taking bookings.

The deadline can be met, and it is not going to change.

We’ve acknowledged the uncertainty faced by operators this year by stepping in with free advice and help in the form of six safety advisers who are dedicated to giving tailored support to every operator who wants it.

They are reading Safety Management Plans, making recommendations, answering questions and making every effort to assist operators.

The Government has stumped up with a financial support incentive to those of you who have been working hard.

WorkSafe NZ will pay $1000, or in some cases up to $1500, towards the cost of an audit for operators who have an audit contract in place with a recognised audit provider by 31 July this year.

We’re doing our bit.

Doing yours means achieving registration in your own businesses – and reaching out to your networks and colleagues with the message that support is available and the regulations are not going away.

What do I mean by that? I’ll be clear.

After 1 November, it will be illegal to operate an adventure or outdoor activity that is subject to the regulations unless an operation has passed a safety audit and achieved registration.

That will be enforced. WorkSafe New Zealand has rejuvenated its Health and Safety inspectorate and is growing its capacity.

Operators found to be flouting the regulations will face compliance and enforcement action.

As you know, one of the triggers for this regulatory regime was a tragedy.
I know that none of us have the stomach for any more.

To my mind, reaching a 1 November in which every adventure activities operator in both the outdoors and tourism sectors has passed a specialised safety audit and registered with WorkSafe NZ is actually not an end state.

It is rather a new start that we will look back on in 20 or 30 years’ time as the first significant milestone in New Zealand becoming the international leader in adventure activities safety.

We will be proudly offering the world a flourishing, diverse and safe adventure activities sector, and I believe we will all be enjoying improved economic opportunities as a result.

Thank you.

ends

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