Boot­camp moun­tain trips may be il­le­gal

Taranaki Daily News - - News - TARA SHASKEY

"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’’.

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