Outdoor pursuit providers will now be forced to undergo mandatory safety audits in the wake of the Paritutu disaster.
Under the new adventure activities regulations that were implemented in March this year, providers such as Topec are now required to pass a mandatory safety audit.
They must also be registered and from early 2014 would be listed on the public Register of Adventure Activity, a spokesman from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment said yesterday.
The ministry's response comes after the judge sentencing Topec this week for causing the death of three people on the Paritutu traverse in August last year called for higher standards.
In addition, the ministry implemented an accreditation scheme for safety audit bodies which is measured against an international standard.
A month before the Paritutu disaster, Topec underwent a voluntary audit, the ministry said.
"We have been advised that Outdoors NZ will re-audit Topec, now that the court process has been completed."
The mandatory safety audit scheme would ensure standards were met, the spokesman said.
"The ministry is working with the sector on a comprehensive framework, which includes guidance on the new standards, new expectations, and the adventure activity regulations, to ensure adventure activities in NZ are as safe as possible," he said.
The Topec trust was this week ordered to pay $269,500 to the victims of the tragedy.
Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain and 17-year-old Spotswood College students, Felipe Melo and Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye lost their lives in the big seas lashing the rock.
Meanwhile, Spotswood College is yet to decide if its students will return to Topec.
The college's principal Mark Bowden said the school would not return to Topec until its own intensive review was completed.
"We've taken a very long hard look at our own policies and procedures..
"There has got to be lessons learned by all schools and outdoor providers," Mr Bowden said.
Among the wide-ranging investigations that followed the tragedy, the school was found to have failed to follow some procedures.
The school's safety audit review of its Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) plan was overdue, final board approval of the detailed programme was not sought and documentation regarding informed consent was incomplete.
Activity information to parents or guardians was also inadequate.
However, the investigation found the omissions by the school did not materially affect the safety of the students.
Topec activities had still not been reinstated for a range of reasons,
Those reasons included respect for the families affected and the need to know exactly what happened, Mr Bowden said.
While the school was mindful that the students wanted to have the Topec experience they were also mindful parents also needed to be consulted.
Now sentencing was completed there was a need to discuss all the information now available.
"This will involve full consultation with the school community," Mr Bowden said.
As the chairman of the Taranaki Secondary Schools Principals Association, Mr Bowden said he was aware other schools across the region continued to use Topec's services.
And as the principal involved in the tragedy, he was now being asked to share the health and safety lessons learned with other principals around the country as well as through his membership of the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council.
Mr Bowden said he and other students had avoided the sentencing in the New Plymouth District Court on Wednesday.
"The last 14 months have been a tortuous process for everybody. Everybody is still very raw and emotional," he said.
A memorial service was held on the anniversary of the tragedy August 8 which again exposed the pain for everybody, he said
"No amount of money or fine is going to make anything better," Mr Bowden said.
Thoughts were very much with the family of Stephen, Felipe and Bryce who were having a daily struggle with their grief, Mr Bowden said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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