The Government will not be shutting down Topec, the ministry investigating the Paritutu triple fatality says.
Following calls from two Taranaki mountaineers for Topec to be closed, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman Ona de Rooy said the ministry did not have the power to shut it down.
Ms de Rooy was responding to calls by Taranaki professional guide and mountaineer Kevin Conaglen for authorities to shut down Topec at least until the investigation into the deaths of two students and their Topec instructor during a Paritutu traverse on August 8 was completed.
The Daily News visited Topec yesterday but director Steve Ralph declined to comment, saying he would contact chairman David Grigg who may or may not comment. By last night there had been no response from Mr Grigg.
Ms de Rooy said there must be evidence of potential failures of safety systems and procedures that could lead to serious harm or fatalities "and we have no evidence of this in the case of Topec's overall operations".
"The company has voluntarily suspended any operations at Paritutu rock and any operations involving interaction with the sea," Ms de Rooy said.
The ministry's investigation into the incident at Paritutu rock was currently under way, she said.
"[This] will also consider the company's systems and process and how they may or may not have been employed, or contributed to the incident in any way. This is not an investigation into Topec's overall operations," Ms de Rooy said.
The ministry has six months from the date of the incident in which to lay charges. Prosecution was not the only enforcement option available, Ms de Rooy said.
Mr Conaglen and his former employer, Queenstown-based mountaineer Chris Prudden, are both calling for higher standards in high-risk outdoor activities involving students.
They say there should be better ratios of instructors to students to the same elevated standards required in the tourism industry and higher-level qualifications for instructors.
Mr Conaglen believes until standards are raised, secondary schools are equally responsible and accountable for any incidents such as at Paritutu.
Taranaki Secondary Principals Association spokeswoman Rosey Mabin said yesterday she had no comment to make until such time as the findings of the inquiries and investigation were made public.
Ms Mabin gave Topec the principals' full support in a letter to the editor on September 17.
Ms de Rooy said new regulations governing the outdoor and commercial adventure activities industry came into effect from November 1, 2011 and were being implemented. Topec met requirements and had recently passed an external audit of its systems and procedures.
Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, and Spotswood College students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo, both 17, died in big surf.
Felipe's body was found days later but there has been no sign of Mr Jourdain or Stephen. Mr Jourdain's backpack was found washed ashore. Stephen's family and friends continue to search the shoreline for him.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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