I think my problem isn't so much whether most visitors use commercial operators or not, but that I don't think this addresses the fundamental problem. It's addressing conduct of the operators at either end who have no control over people after they've been dropped off, and just hoping that's enough. It doesn't directly address the people who actually need to look after themselves.
At best it's creating a new way in which responsibility for a future serious tragedy, which combines an incorrect forecast with hundreds of seriously inexperienced people fending for themselves in an alpine environment, can be blamed on nobody because all concerned were following the agreed protocols that were fine until it was suddenly discovered that they weren't. And when that happens, the people themselves won't be able to be blamed either, no matter how bad their decisions and actions might have been, because there was an established framework in place to "ensure" their safety. If you think checking of certain parts of gear will be enough to prevent accidents, what's the logic of having a forecast requirement?
This might push a tragedy back a notch or two, but I don't think it'll prevent something serious from happening any more than a Cave Creek accident would have been prevented by maximum personage signs. There are some more fundamental problems that are being ignored.
i think the deal is if the clients dont have enough gear they arent allowed on the shuttles...
what do you mean by forecast requirement? at present the shuttles dont run if the forecast is beyond a certain threshold, it's not fullproof but its better than not having a threshold... it will be interesting to see how many rescues there will need to be in the future with the new scheme in place .
we dont know what threshold is in place for determining if someone is adequately equipped but no doubt they'll weed out the worst of them or force them to take more gear if they still want to go... but for every rescue there will be a lot more incidents that go unreported, the cold drowned rats who survive mild hypothermia and make it through to the end... people still wear jeans in any weather or think down jackets or softshells are waterproof when they arent although some are actually waterproof, how will the shuttle drivers vet clothes correctly? some ill equipped people will fall through the cracks, in a lot of cases people survive bad weather because they are young and energetic enough to keep moving fast enough to generate enough energy to stave of advanced hypothermia. hence older people are more prone to getting hypothermia..
"what do you mean by forecast requirement? at present the shuttles dont run if the forecast is beyond a certain threshold, it's not fullproof but its better than not having a threshold"
Yep, that's what I meant. Forecasts are unreliable. People are either safe and responsible through having appropriate gear, skills and experience to assess and make good decisions in a situation, or they aren't. The only logic I can see for relying on a forecast is to make a trip more comfortable and enjoyable, but if the weather craps out unexpectedly then it's still necessary to be able to deal with it, so why use the forecast as part of a safety metric when dropping people off? To me, it's implicitly acknowledging that they can't safely deal with the situation if things go wrong.
I don't see this as something to prevent a big tragedy so much as possibly push it back for some time. At that time everyone gets to blame everyone else because they're all going with agreed standards that have been rubber-stamped as being "safe", but the fact that New Zealand pushes it as a massive must-do tourism adventure will look really bad from the outside regardless.
"we dont know what threshold is in place"
I've asked DoC if it has a copy of the protocols of the group it's requiring operators to join, and I'm still waiting, but according to a Herald article on April 30th ( http://www.nzheral...4&objectid=10802421 ): "Mr Owen said every transport operator in the area except for Mountain Shuttles was a member of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing users group, which sets protocols about when it is safe to do the hike. Users group chairman Stewart Barclay said the wind speed on Saturday exceeded its cut-off of 50km/h, and the clouds and rain were also worse than the protocols allowed."
Call me radical but I’d advocate signage as follows : “YOU and DOC are responsible for the safety of this environment – only YOU are responsible for your safety”.
Izogi, as you mused, Wilson’s Prom is a fragile environment and, especially after the fires (and floods), is prone to erode where vegetation is disturbed. In contrast to the new lands of NZ, Oz is old land, highly weathered, low in nutrients, and behaves differently. This, it’s popularity and it’s proximity to Melbourne, have necessitated restrictions on access to the Prom (limited numbers, off-track prohibitions, etc) for many years.
If your looking for a bit more freedom, take a look at the Avon Wilderness and the Alpine NP. No requirement to stick to tracks, no signs advising ‘Caution, slippery track’. Even in the Lerderderg Gorge (45min WNW from Melb CBD), you can wander without restriction.
yeah the foreast requirement isnt the complete answer. but some of the worst problems have come about from shuttle operators who don't adhere to any forecast restriction, who at a glance decide the passengers are adequately closed. and let them go in a situation where most other shuttle operators arent running because of the self imposed limitations. imagine if there were no limitations on running in bad weather and having adequate clothing. you would end up with large numbers of peoples in situations where they required rescuing on a regular basis.
the reality is you can put the sign up saying people are responsible for themselves but it's been proven in that environment there are large numbers of people who don't have a clue what they are getting themselves into, how severe the weather is up there. it can be hot and sunny in taupo and freezing up on the crossing, the fact is a lot of people heading out on the crossing need someone else to make sure that people aren't putting themselves in danger. walking up a mountain is a lot more tricky than skiiing for trying to regulate your body temp,. even if you have warm clothes you don't wear them going uphill because you're hot. in bad weather you get to the top and dont put warm clothes back on fast enough you're in trouble , if you're wearing cotton in bad weather then your sweat will stay soaking your clothes and keeping you cold. , and that would be the reality for large numbers of people on the crossing in bad weather....
TACTAG ..."members have agreed to operate to these protocols, meaning they do not transport trampers to the Crossing if the weather is unsuitable or they do not have appropriate clothing and equipment."
How far do you go to protect people from themselves ?.
How much cost do you bear for other people's folly or recklessness ?.
Would be okay if people accepted responsilbility for them selves & paid for their rescue. Maybe there could be rescue insurance ?. We have travel insurance for holidays ?.
"but some of the worst problems have come about from shuttle operators who don't adhere to any forecast restriction, , who at a glance decide the passengers are adequately closed"
From the reports I've seen, Mountain Shuttles has been the only operator that wasn't already a member of TACTAG and adhering to its protocols. Have all the recent inadequately prepared people on the crossing who've been commercially dropped been dropped off by Mountain Shuttles?
I'm not totally against this change, but to me it just seems it's a whack-a-mole reaction that's only trying to resolve the problem very locally using very localised experience and intuition, when I think it's more of a national tourism thing and doing stuff locally can only have so much effect. Visitors get ideas and plans about the TC long before they get to the area, or even to NZ, from heaps of different sources. Given how many people walk over the crossing and how serious an accident could be, I'd much rather see something like a commission of inquiry to take a step back and assess everything that's actually happening, where people get their info, how they prioritise and interpret it, why they act as they do, why many years of last minute warning signs and guidebook bylines haven't necessarily been effective, and maybe *then* start thinking about ways to ensure people who decide to do it do so in more responsible ways with a better idea of what they're actually getting into. Keep the entire thing and the reasons for it above board where everyone can see and comment, instead of just going on nothing but localised intuition. Yeah, some people are idiots and reckless, but when there's a high concentration of supposedly reckless people I think there's something else going on. Unfortunately you only tend to get Commissions of Inquiry after a big tragedy's actually happened.
Thanks @bernieq. It was a nice place to visit and reminded me a bit of Abel Tasman NP. T'was just a shame so much of the access is still shut off after 15 months, and I'd love it if there were an approved track or two that climbed steeply over the top of things instead of sidling around the edges.
I've heard back from a helpful DoC person (and also Stewart Barclay of TACTAG, and they apologised that the media's jumped the gun and the final DoC-ready protocols aren't properly agreed on or established in the DoC concession documents as yet.
I've asked if I can get a copy when they're ready, and they're good with that.
Flag this post if it is spam, off-topic, or inappropriate.