Two New Zealanders are actively contributing to the development of new international adventure tourism Standards.
Garth Gulley, Outdoors New Zealand OutdoorsMark Programme Manager, and Mary Beth Cook, nominated by the New Zealand Society for Risk Management, are both part of a group of New Zealand stakeholders providing input to an international Standard to support safe practices in adventure tourism activities. Garth represents New Zealand in the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO's) Working Group (WG) 7, part of Technical Committee 228.
New Zealand's participation in ISO WG 7 followed the Department of Labour's Review of risk management and safety in the adventure and outdoor commercial sectors in New Zealand, 2009/10. Involvement in an international Standard on adventure tourism was seen as bringing both benefits to New Zealand for a vital sector for our economy as well as being a way of New Zealand making a contribution to improving safety in adventure tourism worldwide.
At this stage titled ISO 14489, the Draft International Standard (DIS) is in three parts dealing with safety management systems, information for participants, and leader competence in the adventure tourism sector.
With tourism now a top income earner, employing around 10% of the labour force, and adventure tourism forming a fast growing part of this sector, New Zealand has considerable expertise and experience to share with those interested in developing safety Standards for adventure tourism. Not only does New Zealand have a mature perspective on the delivery of adventure tourism and a good knowledge of the regulatory environment, but there have been many positive developments coming out of the Adventure Tourism Review. These developments include the Support Adventure website, the mandatory qualifications investigation, and the Health and Safety in Employment (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2011. For all these reasons, New Zealand has much to offer.
In 2011, with funding from the Department of Labour, Standards New Zealand set up an International Review Group of key outdoor sector stakeholders to coordinate New Zealand's participation in Working Group 7. The IRG elected Garth Gulley as the New Zealand delegate on Working Group 7. Garth attended two meetings in 2011 (the third and fourth in a proposed series of six) and was joined by Mary Beth Cook at the fifth meeting of the group in May 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. Many countries, including Brazil, New Zealand, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, the UK, Italy, Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands, and Denmark, have all been involved as drafters or submitters in preparing the Standards.
They are not all countries New Zealand has a long history of working closely with but, Mary Beth Cook says, 'Our group's working style and ethic are very positive; parties have robust debate and this is reinforced by productive working relationships and strong engagement.'
Working Group 7 will have its sixth meeting in May 2013 to work further on the draft after feedback from participating countries on the DIS. Then WG 7 will take time to edit and translate the Standard and ballot, so ISO 14489 is unlikely to be published until late 2013 or early 2014.
Although New Zealand already has both OutdoorsMark and Qualmark to provide assurance to the outdoors community on the quality of the services and providers they engage with, ISO accreditation is more widely understood, especially by overseas visitors.
Once ISO 14489 is approved, the Government may choose to cite the Standard to give it a more formal status in the New Zealand regulatory framework.
Application of the Standard would also be strengthened by the development of a guidance or audit tool to go with it. This could provide examples at various risk levels to help people use the Standard in different situations. There will be a real need for education on how to use the Standard, especially for those countries without mature adventure tourism sectors or regulatory environments, or those who have yet to be convinced of the usefulness of the Standard. A handbook could play a vital role in bedding in the use of ISO 14489 once it is available.
Garth says it has been 'tremendous for New Zealand to participate in this and to stand up and be counted on the international stage of adventure tourism'.
'People actively enjoying the outdoors forms a strong element of our cultural identity as New Zealanders, a firm part of our iconography, and indeed of the New Zealand economy. It would have been very disappointing not to have had New Zealand on this working group; a bit like developing a kiwifruit Standard without New Zealand input.'
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