Tourists ‘ignorant’ of NZ dangers


Visitors to New Zealand need to learn more about the dangers of the great outdoors, a major rescue organisation says.

Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) said tourists accounted for more than one-third of callouts this summer.

From December to February, overseas visitors made up 35 per cent of wilderness rescues by LandSAR and police, and tourists were involved in 39 of the 111 incidents.

When all searches over summer, including urban searches, were calculated, tourists accounted for 22 per cent of rescues.

LandSAR board director Phil Melchior said the figures showed that the growing number of visitors highlighted the need to educate them about New Zealand’s potential wilderness dangers.

“We’re selling New Zealand with glossy brochures of our fabulous scenery and visitors are encouraged to get amongst it,” he said.

“The problem is that tourists are sometimes ill-prepared, don’t understand the system and get into trouble.”

Basic outdoor awareness and safety messages were “drummed into” New Zealanders from an early age, but it couldn’t be assumed that tourists acquired similar knowledge.

“If we’re selling New Zealand on the great outdoors, we have a responsibility to make sure people know that danger lurks beneath the beauty,” Mr Melchior said.

LandSAR had developed seven basic outdoor safety tips and he said the organisation needed to work with tourism bodies to ensure visitors were aware of them.

“Making tourists pay for their own rescue sounds tempting, but it isn’t the answer,” Mr Melchior said.

“It’s about making sure they don’t need rescuing in the first place.”

Safety tips for tourists:

* Sign in and sign out. Leave a detailed trip plan with the Department of Conservation or a friend, including a “panic date”. The more details rescuers have about intentions, the quicker they’ll be rescued if something goes wrong.

* Don’t underestimate bad New Zealand weather. Check forecasts before going into the outdoors for the period planned.

* Take advice from people who know the area you’re planning to tramp or climb in.

* Rivers can be killers. If it’s running too strong to walk through, wait until levels drop. Be conservative.

* Going with others is better than going alone.

* Consider using a personal locator beacon, especially if travelling alone.

* If lost, seek shelter and stay where you are. Use a torch or camera flash to attract attention at night. During the day, try to position something coloured and visible from the air to assist a helicopter search.