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DOC strengthens visitor safety systems

Thursday 27 June 2019

DOC strengthens visitor safety systems after Cape Kidnappers rockfall incident

The Department of Conservation, (DOC) has moved swiftly to improve its visitor safety systems after an internal investigation showed significant failures in the way it assessed the Cape Kidnappers track.

The investigation report into the Cape Kidnappers rockfall incident in January has been released today. It shows that those tasked with assessing the risks to visitors limited their thinking to just 1.5km - the DOC-managed land - of the total 9km walk.

“The report is clear that some of our systems let us down and needed to be improved,” DOC’s Director of Heritage and Visitors, Steve Taylor says.

“We are working to make sure this happens as soon as possible and will be actioning all of the recommendations in the report.

“DOC accepts there were significant failures in assessing the risk of the Cape Kidnappers track and we should not have promoted it as a Day Hike as this may have led people to believe it was without risk,” Steve Taylor says.

“Most visitor sites have some degree of natural hazard risks which cannot be totally eliminated. DOC’s role is to assess them properly so people can make an informed choice about whether to participate or not. We accept we did not act on this assessment in the way we should have.

“It’s clear that this was a complex case involving multiple landowners and varying levels of risk. DOC needed to have a better overview of all the different pieces before pushing ahead with promoting the walk,” Steve Taylor says.

DOC has already taken steps to ensure that risks are assessed and addressed properly in future. It has:

Carried out full safety assessments of all the short walk and day hikes promoted in 2018
Established a whole new team responsible for improving the way we do this work
Established a new governance structure to oversee visitor safety and introduced regular reporting
Created a Principal Advisor of Visitor Risk role and made the appointment.

On top of this, DOC is also working towards:

Improving training and support on risk assessments for operations staff.
Working with GNS to standardise the way geological risk assessments are carried out on DOC visitor sites.
Reviewing our quality control systems.
“Visitor safety is an immediate priority and we are sorry that people were caught in this natural rockfall. No one wants to see anyone get hurt.”

DOC is supporting a Quantitative Risk Analysis, initiated by the Hastings District Council, to fully assess the risk of further rockfall on the Cape Kidnappers walk.

“Until we have a full understanding of all the risks associated with this walk, the DOC section of the walkway (about 1.5 km) will remain closed and we will not be promoting it,” Steve Taylor says.


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