Beach trip to Cape Kidnappers as risky as whitewater rafting, or golf, depending on how you travel
Keep it open and advise visitors of the risk, or close it and eliminate any risk altogether?
It's a question every council and government authority has to consider when it comes to tourist attractions. More so than ever, in light of the tragedy on Whakaari White Island.
For many tourist attractions, the risk has probably never been properly calculated.
Until now one of these was the dramatic beach trip to Cape Kidnappers in Hawke's Bay, which was closed for five months after two walkers were injured in a landslide last January.
* Cape Kidnappers beach walking track remains closed due to risk of rockfall
* Department of Conservation finds 'significant failures' in leap up to Cape Kidnappers landslide
* Landslide-prone Cape Kidnappers path reopened
* Cape Kidnappers to remain open while assessment takes place
* 'Multiple fatalities' could occur in second landslide
Now a Quantitative Risk Assessment, commissioned by Hastings District Council and the Department of Conservation, has put the risk of travelling along the beach to Cape Kidnappers somewhere between going whitewater rafting and playing golf, depending on how you get there and how you manage your risk.
The 315-page assessment, completed last month, found that people using the beach to reach the Cape had probably never assessed the risk.
"It is expected that the calculated risks by this QRA are higher than some beach users, particularly tourists, likely expect and are willing to accept," the assessment stated.
Until now beach users appear to have assumed the risk is acceptable, possibly because the walk was being promoted by the Department of Conservation and Gannet Beach Adventures.
Owner operator of Gannet Beach Adventures, Colin Lindsay, again started making trips along the beach, which is considered a legal road, after receiving the report in late December.
The Department of Conservation has not yet opened the walking track from the beach to the gannet colony at the Cape, so Lindsay instead takes visitors to a colony at Black Reef, near the Cape.
Meanwhile, Hastings District Council will continue with its interim operations plan for the beach. That includes having a Kaitiaki stationed at the end of Clifton Camp two hours either side of low tide, large warning signs, and temporarily closing the beach if conditions warrant.
The assessment said a beach users exposure to risk was low due to the short time they would be on the beach. Walkers were at more risk, those in cars were at low risk and those on a trailer such as those used by Gannet Beach Adventures were somewhere between the two.
Assuming risk controls were implemented correctly, a fatality would be expected at the site more than every 100 years, the assessment said.
If risk controls were ignored that decreases to a fatality every 15 years for tourists and every 35 years for Gannet Beach Adventure passengers.
"A key risk control could be in encouraging beach users to stay as far away from the base of the cliffs as feasible," the assessment said.
Without risk management in place, locals making the trip on foot, by bike or car had an estimated risk of fatality by landslide of 1 in 100,000 over a year. That's the same as whitewater rafting. With risk management it improves to 1 in 1,000,000, the same as jetboating.
For tourists walking the route the risk is put at 1 in 1,000,000 per trip. With risk management it improves to 1 in 10,000,000, the same as playing soccer or netball.
The risk for passengers with Gannet Beach Adventures is put at 1 in 100,000,000, the same as playing golf or cricket.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said it was impossible to remove all risk in the outdoors.
"I don't think we want New Zealand littered with 'Danger' signs. A track, for example, should either be open or not. A sign saying 'unstable cliffs' would seem unlikely to change anyone's behaviour.," he said.
"An authority can't remove its responsibility by putting a sign up," he said.
Source : Stuff.co.nz