Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Zealand: Mandatory Drug Testing Urged for All Adventure Tour Operators, Implementation Elusive

Prime Minister John Key remains committed to improving safety in the adventure tourism industry in New Zealand and his Government will consider recommendations made by the coroner investigating the Fox Glacier tragedy.

The industry's reputation has taken a battering in recent years, with questions over the quality of safety standards and cannabis links to tour operators involved in both the Fox Glacier and Carterton hot-air balloon tragedies, which together claimed 20 lives.

The revelations that the pilot of the Carterton hot-air balloon had cannabis in his system and so too did two skydive masters in the Fox Glacier crash has prompted the Government to consider mandatory drug testing in the tourism industry.

COMMENT: The father of a British tourist killed in the Fox Glacier tragedy says the Government has failed to improve the safety of adventure tourism and New Zealand remains "more dangerous than it should be." 

The September 2010 crash killed four international tourists, also claimed the lives of four skydiving masters and the pilot. 

The January 2012 scenic hot-air balloon from Carterton collided with a high voltage power line while attempting to land, causing it to catch fire, disintegrate and crash just north of the town, killing all eleven people (ten passengers and the pilot) on board. 

Some of the tour operators in both incidents had cannabis in their bloodstreams at the time of the accidents. 

The families of the tourists killed, in a public letter, have pleaded for Prime Minister Key to take action to make the country "a safe place to visit." 

The families of the two crashes have called for the Government to throw more resources at instituting mandatory drug testing in adventure tourism operations, but to date, such a policy has yet to be instituted. 

Foreign travelers are urged to be mindful of the fact that safety protocols governing adventure tourism are often not at the same level as they might find in their home country or in highly-regulated societies where life-safety is a priority.