DOC defends system

DEBBIE JAMIESON
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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A failure by Department of Conservation hut wardens to notice the absence of missing tramper "Jordan" despite her having booked her bed six months previously was not a system failure, a boss says.

The department's acting manager in Te Anau Grant Tremain said there was some confusion over who was supposed to be at the first hut on the Milford Track the night Jordan failed to appear.

If it had been noticed she was missing a search and rescue would have been launched. However, it was not a system failure.

"People are still responsible for their own safety and decisions. We're not running an intention system. We do our best to make sure people are there but the system is not 100 per cent foolproof."

The situation was discussed after Jordan was located.

"We've definitely reviewed it with our staff to ensure anything like that is brought up if there are any concerns or anything like that out of the ordinary."

"The problem is . . . if you look for everyone, you would be employing a full time search and rescue party."

The department's visitor Risk Management Policy stated people needed to be responsible for their own decisions in the outdoors.

"We supply the facilities and everything like that but there's a certain level of responsibility people need to use and realise it's a big wide world out there - even on the Milford Track."

The brother of Israeli tramper Liat Okin, who died in 2008 after going missing on the Routeburn Track, also called for improvements to the system.

"If you've started the track, and you stay at the first hut, someone should ask the question if you don't arrive at the second hut."

He said while he accepted it would not have helped his sister, the search might have started earlier.

However, Coroner David Crerar said he did not think the Department of Conservation could be asked to operate a better check-in/checkout system than the existing one.

He recommended DOC review its branding and marketing of the tramping tracks identified as Great Walks to "more accurately describe the serious and potentially dangerous terrain the tracks traverse and the tramping experience required to accomplish the journey safely".

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- The Southland Times

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