Shark-cage operators put the bite on Govt about safety – but is competition their real worry?

Code or no code, Alf prefers to get his kicks elsewhere.

Dunno why southern shark tourism operators are making such a fuss about cowboy operators.

They are expressing concerns that the unregulated industry could lead to cowboy operators coming to the Foveaux area.

And these cowboys – they reckon – will put peoples’ lives in danger because they do not know what they are doing.

The reality, Alf suspects, could be that the incumbent operators are pissed off at the prospect of competition and want the industry regulated to make it easier for themselves to make a buck.

It seems to Alf, however, that they should be cashing in at the expense of any cowboys by advertising the higher standards maintained by their own operations – if they can demonstrate that this is the case.

Our operations are safe, they should be saying in promotional material carefully crafted to alert tourists to the risks of taking their business elsewhere.

But nah, they are among too many business people who want the Government to do all the work.

The story is told today at Stuff –

Southern dive operators say the Government has done nothing to keep people safe from cowboy shark tourism companies operating in Foveaux Strait, despite repeated requests to take action.

Southern Aqua Adventures owner Mike Haines said Maritime New Zealand was supposed to have got the operators together this year to form a code of practice for the shark-cage dive industry, but nothing had been done.

Hello…

Do we really need a government department to set up a meeting of operators to develop a code of practice?

Or – hey, here’s a thought – can they do it all by their clever selves?

This Haines feller seems to think no, they can’t do it by themselves.

Mr Haines had obtained the Australian code of practice, but that was as far as he could go by himself, he said. “It is beyond my control, I can’t do anything.”

He’s not alone with this negative attitude.

Shark Dive New Zealand owner Peter Scott said he had also been trying to work with government departments, such as the Conservation Department, Department of Labour and Maritime NZ, for the past three years to get some form of regulations in place, but with no success.

“No-one will take responsibility until someone is killed. I guarantee it – it is frustrating.”

Sorry, but Alf doesn’t see the problem here.

The operators say they have got a code from Australia.

So what – exactly – is stopping them getting together and agreeing to implement this code all by themselves?

Then they could make a big deal about it to promote their businesses.

It seems a pretty simple exercise to get the operators together, because the Stuff story says that during the past few years just one or two boats have been operating shark-cage diving in the Foveaux Strait.

The Stuff report then raises the matter that Alf suspects has triggered the concern about cowboy operators.

Scott is quoted as saying he expects, from this summer, at least three boats

…and he feared cowboy operators could start up in the future, he said.

There can be no doubting the bureaucrats have not exactly pulled out their fingers on this matter.

Maybe that’s because they are under-resourced, or something, as a consequence of our budget-conscious government quite properly putting the squeeze on their spending.

Whatever the reason, a Maritime NZ spokesman says preliminary discussion had begun between the Ministry for the Environment, Fisheries Ministry and the Department of Conservation about getting a code of practice, but nothing had come of that.

Maritime NZ wanted to put in place a code that required an appropriate standard for cages and deploying them, he said.

He was unsure how long that would take, he said.

“We can understand people are concerned, which is why we are trying to develop this code of practice alongside industry.”

A Department of Labour spokesman is quoted as saying the shark-cage carry-on normally fell under the jurisdiction of Maritime NZ, but in special circumstances it could be covered by the new Adventure Activity Regulations, which came into force on November 1.

The regulations require commercial adventure tourism and outdoor education operators who provide activities that are designed to deliberately expose participants to a managed risk of serious harm, to undergo a safety audit and be registered within three years.

The shark-dive season – for what it’s worth – begins next month and runs until June.

Alf will give it a miss. He much prefers nattering with his mates about this, that and the other in the comfort and safety of the Eketahuna Club.

As for those who happen to get gobbled up by a shark because they went diving with a cowboy operator, too bad.

They wanted a rush of blood. And they got it.

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