Safety life­line for Adrenalin For­est

Cail­l­a­bet’s ven­ture pros­per­ing

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By HAMISH MCNI­COL

A $ 200,000 in­vest­ment that saves peo­ple from fall­ing 31 me­tres from the top of trees also saved Jean Cail­l­a­bet’s business.

Almost two years after a death at an Auck­land ad­ven­ture park re­sulted in the num­ber of vis­i­tors nearly halv­ing, cus­tomers are be­ing roped back to Cail­l­a­bet’s Adrenalin For­est parks in Porirua, Christchurch and Tau­ranga.

Adrenalin For­est di­rec­tor Jean Cail­l­a­bet came to New Zealand from France for three months in 2006 to ‘‘make a for­tune’’ or learn English, which­ever came first.

He had been a moun­tain guide, rock-climb­ing in­struc­tor, ski in­struc­tor and kayak­ing coach in France so he thought he would start a business in New Zealand.

The first year in Christchurch was tough, but even­tu­ally his business grew to a sec­ond park in Aotea, Porirua, in 2010, and in Bay of Plenty a year later.

He now has $2 mil­lion in­vested in the business, has about 30 staff and gets more than 70,000 vis­i­tors ev­ery year.

Adrenalin For­est is a high- wire ob­sta­cle course more than two kilo­me­tres in length, up to 31 me­tres off the ground and set in up to four hectares of for­est.

Each park cost about $400,000 and took four months to build.

Cail­l­a­bet said the hard­est part was find­ing a suit­able site.

He leases land from lo­cal coun­cils and used the cash flow gen­er­ated from each park to fund the next.

In early 2013, a man died when he fell 14 me­tres from the high­wires at Tree Ad­ven­tures in Wood­hill For­est, near He­lensville.

Cail­l­a­bet said that business dropped 40 per cent as a re­sult; his staff still speak about the death ev­ery day.

Cail­l­a­bet said the big pic­ture view of the tourism ad­ven­ture in­dus­try safety re­forms was good.

Ac­ci­dents were dra­matic for the fam­ily and staff, but peo­ple had a view of the in­dus­try as be­ing ‘‘ cow­boys’’ with long hair and a lack of care.

Be­cause ad­ven­ture tourism looked fun, peo­ple thought the op­er­a­tors were fun, but the re­al­ity was that any lapse ru­ined business.

A year ago, he in­vested $200,000 in a new safety sys­tem called Clic-It.

The prod­uct, de­signed in France, stops par­tic­i­pants from be­ing able to take both safety de­vices off a safety cable while they are on the aerial course.

Cail­l­a­bet be­came the lo­cal agent for the company in Septem­ber. YMCA Wellington adopted it for its rope course, Black Wa­ter Raft­ing uses it at Wait­omo Caves and it is also used on the Canyon Swing on the Sho­tover River near Queen­stown.

‘‘It’s French so it’s per­fect, smart and beau­ti­ful, and welle­d­u­cated,’’ he said.

‘‘Cost me a for­tune but was the best in­vest­ment I have ever made. With­out that, I would be bank­rupt to­day.’’

At $ 42 for an adult, and be­tween $17 and $27 for a child, the $200,000 in­vest­ment rep­re­sented ‘‘a lot of peo­ple’’.

But he says he has no re­grets; the sys­tem re­duced stress for staff, teach­ers, par­ents and par­tic­i­pants.

Vis­i­tor num­bers have been in­creas­ing at 20 per cent month on month since, he says.

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