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Following the White Island eruption, the New Zealand Government is soliciting comments on the regulation of adventure activities. Here’s what I wrote:
I’m very worried about collateral damage to private activities not envisioned by this scheme. Everyone is generally supportive of these activities but making it harder to access lands will affect opportunities for private recreation.
From the point of view of a private participant: The onus should be on the adventure operator, not the landowner, to manage risks associated with their use of lands. I don’t want to see anything that might have unintended consequences and result in fewer recreational opportunities being available to the general population.
Although I’m currently in New Zealand, I also serve on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Alliance of Climbers, which is similar to the Aotearoa Climbing Access Trust. Rock climbing is a growing sport worldwide and outdoor rock climbing requires access to cliffs. In New Zealand, many cliffs are on private lands and we climb with the kind permission of the landowners.
The legal regimes are largely similar in NZ and Ontario in that landowners are not liable for damages incurred by recreationalists on their land, which is completely sensible. It is very important to not impose additional requirements on them: just securing permission to access their land is already hard enough.
I can support an obligation for landowners to disclose what they know about their land, but I strongly oppose an obligation for them to assess and manage risks of natural hazards, even if it is only for professional adventure activities: this seems to be likely to exert an overall chilling effect.