Having been Director of the NZ Outward Bound School and Director of the Arapaepae outdoor pursuits centre in New Zealand, I can fully understand the grief, the dispair, the anger, the hurt and pain that family and friends are going through after the tragedy at Paritutu rock.
Every day for five years while running Outward Bound at Anakiwa, I would not only pray for student's safety daily, but would check, check and check again equipment, boats, trucks, kayaks, buses, ropes, rock faces, safety manuals and think over and over in my mind, "have we given our instructors the best possible training?"
But sadly, incidents such as the Paritutu rock climbing tragedy occur, and will continue to occur in New Zealand, despite the best staff training, the best equipment and the best safety audits. It is a matter of statistics such as crashes of reputable airlines.
"Anyone can make adventure training safe by taking all the adventure out of it. The best safety lies not so much in the avoidance of danger but in learning how to deal with it."
In the 50's and 60's Tom Price wrote many articles on outdoor education, character building and referred frequently to managing risks.
Photo: Tom Price (left) with Bob McKerrow
From reading various barticles in the NZ media, this one caught my eye about safety checks
Topec board chairman David Grigg issued a statement saying it was conducting an internal investigation into what went wrong as staff reel from the loss of Jourdain, and the two students in their care.
By yesterday afternoon, much of the Topec website had been shut down, including the Paritutu Traverse climbing safety risk assessment.
Last month Topec was audited by Outdoors New Zealand and passed all safety checks.
Grigg said Topec was co-operating fully with all of the relevant authorities.
Garth Dawson, chief executive of Outdoors New Zealand, said all of the safety management systems and operating procedures had passed the July audit.
"Given the type of exercise of the Paritutu Traverse, it would have been fully investigated in terms of safety and everything passed the audit," he said.
Dawson said safety was the No 1 priority for outdoor pursuits instructors and Topec had no record of any previous serious incidents.
"Topec is a well-respected organisation not just in our own sector but in the educational and safety sectors as well," he said.
I know incidents such as the one at Paritutu will be thoroughly investigated and lessons learned shared throughout the outdoor world.
As the world becomes a much more dangerous place to live in and travel through, we cannot shield our children from danager, and I hope that the words of Tom Price, who is still rock climbing at 93, will be kept as a guiding principle in outdoor education:
"The best safety lies not so much in the avoidance of danger but in learning how to deal with it."
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key said a full coroner's inquiry would be held, and added.
"Any kind of physical activity like this comes with a degree of risk. But obviously we make sure, when youngsters are involved, that that's a very managed risk." Has Mr. Key been reading Tom Price's latest book Travail So Gladly Spent where he talks about managing risks in the outdoors ?