Editorial - No need for an inquiry

19:29, Jan 09 2013

SkyWalk operators are reviewing safety procedures after a man scaled a safety fence and threatened to jump from the bungy platform at Auckland's Sky Tower this week. But no government agency is investigating what happened at the tower. Nor is there a need for an official inquiry.

Establishing how the man travelled to the Sky Tower is a different matter. He was an inpatient at a mental health facility, the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre on the Waikato Hospital campus. The Waikato District Health Board has good cause to be investigating how he was able to leave the facility, which provides minimum to medium secure rehabilitation for the Waikato DHB and Midland region.

The man's escapade attracted widespread media attention, but that reflects the drama of the incident rather than shortcomings in SkyWalk's management or safety procedures. It involved his attempts to throw himself off the platform on the tower's 54th level without a harness, an emergency services callout, and inconvenience for the public when a section of inner-city Auckland was cordoned off.

None of what happened on the bungy platform can be likened to the ballooning tragedy near Carterton a year ago (the final report from investigators has yet to be published) or to the series of mishaps that prompted Prime Minister John Key to order a review of adventure tourism (39 people died in outdoor activities between 2004 and 2009).

The main outcome of the review was the registration of all risky adventure tourism businesses and mandatory safety audits. Those measures, and the steps already being taken by ballooning operators, should address any concerns about safety standards.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern nevertheless has insisted "a government department" should take an interest in what happened on the Sky Tower platform because of adventure tourism's importance to the country's economy.

She is misguided. Regulations cannot remove all risk. SkyWalk operators should not be required to devise procedures to stop a mentally enfeebled man climbing over their safety fence, and governments should not be expected to regulate to stop freak occurrences or the unforeseen actions of the profoundly stupid or the mentally ill.


Waikato Times