Bootcamp mountain trips may be illegal
"I think they have zero comprehension of the risk they put themselves in"
Top Guide's Rob Needs
Bootcamp style fitness groups organising trips up Mt Taranaki could be unwittingly breaking the law and dodging thousands in expenses, an experienced mountain guide says.
New Plymouth man Rob Needs said his company Top Guides, established in 2015 with three others, paid around $10,000 in registration costs and went through rigorous health and safety audits to be able to guide people on the mountain.
But recently he has noticed an increasing number of fitness groups and personal trainers arranging summit walks, which he believed broke rules around who could ‘‘guide’’ on the mountain.
He said when organising group climbs fitness instructors were essentially acting as guides, which was illegal if they did not hold a concession to do so.
‘‘I think they have zero comprehension of the risk they put themselves in,’’ he said.
‘‘If it goes wrong, particularly when you’re talking summit journey, if something goes wrong and somebody dies they’re going to the coroner.’’
Dana Brooks of Sweet Baby Jesus Fitness, who has organised a climb for next weekend, said she ‘‘stressed the point’’ to participants that she was not a guide.
‘‘It’s an open walk to anybody,’’ she said. ‘‘I just say ‘I’m going up on this day and if anybody wants to join, come along’’’.
However she has used a guide in past summit climbs and said she would continue to use one in the future.
‘‘If I can’t get a guide I would cancel.’’ Brooks did not charge participants and had people sign a solicitor approved disclaimer beforehand.
‘‘I tell everybody they are going at their own risk.’’
Needs said if something was to go wrong during the climb accountability would fall into the lap of the organiser, despite having people sign a waiver.
Top Guides has public liability insurance and an audited safety plan, he said, but they could still face prosecution in the event of negligence.
Even if the groups were having participants sign waiver forms, it would not stand up if something was to go wrong, he said.
‘‘You can not sign away illegal operations’’.
Needs said it was also unfair groups ‘‘flying under the radar’’ were not meeting the same hefty costs as his company.
‘‘We have hoops like you wouldn’t believe - and costs - to jump through.’’
To become a registered adventure activity with WorkSafe, Top Guides paid thousands for the initial auditing process.
They have to undergo an annual paper audit and a physical audit every three years, which also incurred hefty costs, he said.
As a result they charge upwards of $200 for any one of its guided tours, mostly to cover compliance expenses, he said.
Without those costs fitness groups were able to take people for free or a small fee, he said.
However, Needs said he wasn’t concerned he was losing business as Top Guide’s main market was tourists.
‘‘But if we did find it was affecting our business directly then we would take some sort of other action’’.
‘‘Realistically that’s not the issue though...it’s if something goes wrong’’.