Erosion of recreational opportunities requires clarification of HSW Act

The New Zealand Recreation Association has today written to the Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety seeking clarification on aspects of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

“A sense of nervousness has emerged among land owners and managers around their responsibility for recreational users,” said NZRA Chief Executive Andrew Leslie.

“We are now seeing cases of long-standing recreational opportunities being closed to the public, due to that anxiety,” he said.

The New Zealand Alpine Club has recently drawn attention to a specific example of this at a rock climbing crag in central Auckland. NZRA is working closely with NZAC on the broader issue and Mr Leslie said, “New Zealand’s most popular forms of recreation - walking, fishing, hunting, tramping - rely on access. We hate to see this erosion of recreational opportunities”.

“The laudable intention of the Health and Safety at Work Act is to create safer workplaces, not to encroach on recreation. But a lack of clarity is doing just that,” he continued.

Mr Leslie expressed a need for clarity within the act. “There are various types of land – Council reserves, school grounds or even land that is managed by DoC – where the PCBU carries out work some of the time and recreationalists utilise it at other times. The Act does not provide clarity on where the duty of care starts and stops. There is specific wording in the Act that makes it clear that farmers only have a duty where work is being carried out. That is helpful. But it does make other land owners and managers wonder about their own liability”.

“We have written to the Minister asking for clarity on that matter. We need to ensure that the numerous benefits of recreation – physical and mental wellbeing amongst others – are not eroded by misinterpretations of the Act,” he concluded.

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