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Smug Minister Steals Children's Chances

Smug Minister Steals Children's Chances

Education Minister Trevor Mallard's put down of school principals' concerns about OSH liability shows how sheltered he is from reality, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Mr Mallard scornfully says liability can be avoided by being careful. Everyone knows that. But most accidents look avoidable with hindsight, and only an arrogant Labour Minister would claim he'll never have an accident," Mr Franks said.

"Neither Mr Mallard nor Attorney-General Margaret Wilson - who pushed the latest OSH changes through - ever understood what makes people tick. Volunteers exposed to unlimited liability and criminal prosecution if something goes wrong won't volunteer - why should they? They're not compensated for the risk.

"The same goes for Trustees and staff. Even paid staff have a choice. They can save themselves the worry by leaving kids in classrooms. They don't have to risk taking children off school sites. Mr Mallard is stealing essential supervised adventure and outdoor experience from the nation's children.

"As I've been warning for years, pupils will be denied school camping trips as there is no-one to lead them. Kids will be unable to play sport if volunteer coaches won't wear the risk.

"In my professional life time the law has been turned on its head. Thirty years ago, the law and judges took care not to punish volunteers who acted in good faith. That applied even if, with the ease of hindsight, they could be said to have been negligent.

"Why doesn't the Minister care that prudent volunteers will decide they've got better things to do? He plainly doesn't care that schools which can't afford professionals to cover their backsides will simply keep the kids in the classroom. There will be a generation in which only the lucky kids get the experience that is so vital to safety as an adult in the outdoors.

"Poorer kids - and kids without the good fortune of having experienced family and friends to take them on outdoor adventures while they are young - will still take risks, but they'll do it after school, and as young adults without supervision.

"Today's parents could be the last generation of New Zealanders who can genuinely claim the national character - stoic, adventurous, and good off the tarmac.

"ACT will produce a law change to protect authorised volunteers. International Volunteers Day, on December 5, will be a good time for them to add their voices to the call for law change," Mr Franks said.

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