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Tourism industry hits back over grieving father's warning

Published: 12:17PM Thursday May 10, 2012 Source: ONE News

New Zealand's adventure tourism industry says it is a world leader, after the UK father of a skydiving crash victim told people to think twice before visiting this country for adventure sport.

A Transport Accident Investigation Commission report found a skydiving plane which crashed at Fox Glacier killing nine people was out of balance and modifications made to it were poorly managed.

Among those killed in the September 4, 2010 crash was 24-year-old English tourist Brad Coker, whose father Chris Coker is calling on Prime Minister John Key to urgently tighten adventure tourism regulations.

"I feel it my duty to advise people thinking of visiting New Zealand for adventure sport to think twice," Coker said.

But Tourism Industry Association advocacy manager Geoff Ensor has told TV ONE's Breakfast many other countries with adventure tourism look to New Zealand for leadership on safety, professionalism and quality.

Ensor said those countries will now be taking a lead from New Zealand's new safety regulations for the adventure tourism industry which have come in after a government-ordered review of the industry.

The new regulations mean adventure tourism operators will be required to be registered and undergo a safety audit.

"They will now be looking at the recommendations and outcomes of the review and saying New Zealand is resetting its bar and we need to follow that lead," Ensor said.

"So we're very confident that we've got operators and an industry that we can be justifiably proud of."

Ensor said the review concentrated on the ground-based activities that were not under Maritime New Zealand or Civil Aviation Authority regulation.

Skydiving and ballooning - in which 11 people died in a balloon crash near Carterton in January - are both now under CAA regulation, he said.

The Tourism Industry Association says that there have been 50 deaths in adventure tourism over the past eight years, including both overseas visitors and New Zealanders.

Low tolerance for mistakes

Ensor said the expectations of visitors taking adventure tourism activities is higher than ever before and their tolerance for mistakes is very low "and quite justifiable so".

He said: "Certainly visitors can be very confident that the tourism industry is a world leader in New Zealand. They will do all they can to minimise the risk.

"But adventure does have risk associated with it. But we have a duty of care to make sure we minimise that and that's what we're about."

Coker said his son was killed in a completely avoidable and needless fatal accident, which could have been avoided by a system of rigorous regulation and monitoring.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that new regulations have been put in place since the Fox Glacier crash.

"My message is that it is safe," Key said.

"There's always some risk with adventure tourism, that's true of every country in the world. Ultimately if you throw yourself out of a plane or off a bridge there's an element of risk there, but our operators are good operators," he said.

Key said Coker's letter contained a number of inaccuracies.