New face of adventure at MNZ

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 42, December 2012

MNZ has welcomed a veteran of the adventure tourism scene to the compliance team.
Michael-Paul Abbott
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
MP guides a group of tourists through Geoff’s Joy rapid on the Rangitaiki River.

Michael-Paul Abbott, known as MP, is based out of Tauranga and will focus on the adventure side of recreational safety and compliance – jet boats, rafting, paddleboards and kayaks.

MP has a long background in adventure tourism. He started as a rafting guide in Taupo in 1999, and got so involved in the scene he even ended up marrying one of his customers.

“She was on my raft and injured her ankle. I thought she was lovely – one thing led to another… my colleagues gave me plenty of stick, but I think it’s just a good example of quality post-trip care.”

As well as his New Zealand experience, MP has worked rivers in Japan and California, which he admits was a bit of a culture shock.

“I think it’s easy to forget that in New Zealand we set the standard for adventure tourism safety. I turned up to work in California with my helmet and everyone laughed at me. You could raft Grade 3 rapids without one, which was a bit of an eye-opener!”

Japan had its challenges as well. “A big trip in New Zealand would be maybe 70 to 100 people, but my first trip in Japan was for 200 ten-year-old school kids – it’s a different world.”

MP’s industry experience and the fact he runs his own kayaking outfit mean he’s familiar with a lot of the challenges operators face.

“Some of the smaller operators tend to struggle with high compliance costs but they are the backbone of adventure tourism. They can offer much higher levels of personal service and that’s what makes the difference for customers, so I’ll be looking to make it as easy as I can for them to comply with the rules and ensure they’re running a safe operation.”

“There are lots of kayak outfits running different boats in different environments, from lakes to rivers, estuaries and open water, so that is a challenge. Paddleboarding is a pretty new thing as well, so getting them up to speed compliance-wise will be important.”

Having said that, MP says rafting and jet boat operators have dealt with MNZ since the late 90s, so are used to it and have good levels of compliance. The Government-led 2009/10 review of safety in adventure and outdoor commercial activities is another step forward in the fostering of a robust and consistent safety culture.

MP believes the industry’s attitude has changed noticeably over the years, and there is now a much greater focus on safety and compliance. “It’s much more common to have staff properly qualified in first aid, resuscitation and so on. There’s also lots of help available to operators to assist them in setting up safety systems. More of them have these well-established, which makes the transition into a more regulated environment much easier.”

MP says he’s looking forward to meeting lots of operators, building relationships, learning about their challenges and issues, and helping the operators through them.

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