These guidelines explain why safety plans are necessary, how you can prepare one and how to have it checked by a qualified and independent auditor.

All businesses undertaking recreation and tourism related activities on public conservation land require an independently audited safety plan. The auditor’s certificate must be received by DOC before the activity begins operating. 

Definition of 'adventure activity'

First, you must find out if your activity meets the definition of 'adventure activity'. See:

If you do meet the definition

If you meet the above definition, then you are an 'adventure tourism operator' under the Health and Safe at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations. 

This means you must be registered with Worksafe New Zealand, and use an approved audit provider to audit your safety plan. Failure to do so may incur a fine of up to $250,000. See the Worksafe guidance for businesses for a list of providers.

See Support Adventure for more information. This site has been set up by the Tourism Industry Association and Outdoors New Zealand as a source of safety guidance for adventure tourism operators.

If your concession application is approved, you will be required to provide, to DOC, a copy of the certificate of audit before you start undertaking the activity.

If you do not meet the definition

DOC requires that you have a safety plan which has been audited by one of the following organisations:

You can apply to DOC to be one the organisations listed here – see below.

What you should have in your plan

The full requirements for health and safety in the workplace are set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

As a general guide your safety plan should contain:

  • those accountable for safety in your business
  • identified hazards
  • how information, training and supervision will be provided to employees
  • what equipment you will use and how it will be maintained
  • procedures for accident/incident reporting and investigation
  • a plan for emergencies that may arise while employees are at work
  • procedures for applying and updating the plan.

Once the auditor is satisfied that the safety plan is complete they will provide you with a letter or certificate. You will be required to provide, to DOC, a copy of this before you start undertaking the activity.

When a safety plan is not required

Evidence of an audited safety plan is not required if your activities are covered by a regulatory agency such as the Civil Aviation Authority or the Maritime Safety Authority.

However if your activity includes more activity than simply what is covered by CAA or MSA then you will require an audited safety plan for the remaining activity. For example, landing a helicopter and disembarking is covered by CAA, however any guiding outside the zone of the rotor is managed by DOC and requires a safety plan.

In these instances we will request a copy of your recent compliance with these standards.

Why DOC can't audit your safety plan

DOC is a conservation agency, not a safety agency. We do not possess the necessary expertise in safety matters to assess your safety plan.

It is the responsibility of the operator and the industry in which they operate to set their own safety standards for the activities they undertake.

Non-adventure activity safety audits

DOC is responsible for taking all practicable steps to ensure recreation experiences are safe for visitors using public conservation lands and waters. Visitor safety is managed in accordance with legislation, statutory plans, policies and management procedures. 

In 2016, after consultation with stakeholders and interested parties (including WorkSafe NZ), DOC established criteria to recognise an additional category of safety auditors for non-adventure activities on public conservation lands and waters. This distinction from adventure activity auditors was implemented with the goal of enhancing the capability of concessionaires to meet DOC’s current safety audit requirements. 

Become an 'audit providing organisation'

To be recognised as an organisation that DOC accepts audits from, you must make an application.

This application requires you to demonstrate that your organisation meets the following criteria:

1. Establish, document, implement and maintain processes that will enable the organisation to provide safety audits for concessionaires undertaking activities on public conservation land that do not meet the criteria for Adventure Activity Regs activities.

2. Have the capacity to:

a) provide at least 3 yearly audits;
b) undertake site visits;
c) receive annual declarations; and
d) take action in a timely manner if an SMS review is triggered e.g. due to a DOC request or the annual declaration identifying relevant change in risk.

3. Hold appropriate indemnity insurance (or individual Auditors must have indemnity insurance).

4. Provide guidelines for its own auditors, audit quality review and at least annual auditor moderation.

5. Systematically assess the level of risk of the activity and adjust the amount of audit effort in proportion to that risk. The minimum requirement is a document audit however depending on the level of risk the auditor may require a site visit. (Note: document audits should include discussions with the operator)

6. Provide audits that specifically address safety and ensures that the audited organisation has in place a Safety Management System (SMS) that meets the requirements of the HSWAct 2015 and specifically covers:

a) safety policy and top leadership responsibilities;
b) risk management processes;
c) staff competence and engagement;
d) incident reporting and recording processes;
e) emergency response plans; and
f) continual improvement.

Note: The SMS does not have to be a stand-alone document; it may be part of the organisations broader business plan. There does need to be a specific Safety Policy.

7. Ensure consistent auditing against the requirements of a relevant, recognised audit standard such as ISO 21101, ISO 45001, AS/NZS 4801, or equivalent. This will include:

a) providing guidelines for auditors, audit quality review and at least annual auditor moderation.
b) ensuring auditors are competent in line with independent good practice guidance such as: section 3 of the NZ Adventure Activities Certification Scheme (NZAACS); or ISO 17021, Qualmark or a similar relevant audit framework.
c) ensuring an element of on-site audit activity if the auditor does not meet the NZAACS competencies
d) implementing a Code of Conduct equivalent to the New Zealand Adventure Activities Certification Scheme v1.18, Appendix A: Auditors Code of Conduct

8. Provide audits valid for a maximum of 3 years which, depending on the level of risk, may include an annual declaration of the same type as New Zealand Adventure Activities Certification Scheme v1.18, Appendix D: Declaration of Conformity.

Note: DOC acknowledges that all organisations recognised by WorkSafe as adventure activity audit providers meet these criteria.

Back to top