Discussion document on staging road events31st December 2003
Sport and Recreation New Zealand (Sparc) has released a discussion document it hopes will lead to fast-tracking the restoration of confidence in the staging of sport and recreation events following the mid-year prosecution of Christchurch promoter Astrid Andersen.
The document is the result of a November workshop that involved promoters, sports executives, lawyers, police and government departments. It concentrated primarily on road-based events. Among the recommendations is the setting up of templates to be developed for risk management and best practice policies.
Andersen was convicted of criminal nuisance in August after the death of a cyclist in the 2001 Le Race bike race from Akaroa to Christchurch which she organised.
The court found she had deficient safety procedures which contributed to the cyclist's death following a head-on collision with a car. Andersen is appealing the decision. She was prosecuted under the Crimes Act.
The successful prosecution clearly shifts the responsibility for accidents from participants to organisers and also impacts on volunteers. Since, nearly two dozen events have been cancelled because promoters were not prepared to risk prosecution as a result of accidents.
Arthur Klap, one of the country's leading promoters who attended Sparc's November workshop, believes the Crimes Act - which covers carelessness to gross negligence - needs to be redefined.
"The law needs to be split in half almost," Klap said. "You can make a mistake and be convicted and you can be grossly negligent and convicted. Astrid Andersen was at one end of the scale, not at the other end. She carries the burden almost of the gross negligence when in fact she was convicted of carelessness. Some tidy-up needs to happen."
The discussion paper was heading in the right direction to restore confidence to the sector but actions need to follow quickly, Klap said. "But at least if they can get the message out to a variety of people that there's no need to panic. The key thing is just to get people's confidence. A rash of events have been cancelled and volunteers are pulling out and our whole sport and event infrastructure is based upon the volunteer. They (volunteers) need to have the confidence they can be involved without the worry they could be convicted of something."
Sparc is initiating discussions with the Ministry of Justice about possible law changes. It's talking to Standards New Zealand on developing guidelines for risk management.
It's also standardising processes and regulations promoters have to adhere to with a variety of other government departments. For example there are 12 autonomous police districts where practices for events vary from district to district. The same largely applies to local councils.
Transit New Zealand's focus is on traffic management and its code of practice needs to more easily accommodate road-based events.
A byproduct of the current confusion is what some promoters describe as a "paper war".
In organising the recent World Triathlon Championship in Queenstown, Klap had to bounce between nine different authorities to secure clearance for part of the course that was in use for a maximum of 20 minutes.
Jude Ellis is overseeing the project for Sparc. She has circulated the discussion document widely and is seeking feedback and suggestions by February 16. Then she hopes to form a steering group and have a plan of action underway by the end of March. One of her priorities is to educate and reassure. She described some of the comments made in the wake of Andersen's conviction as "ill-informed and scare-mongering".
"I want to get some education out there in terms of people having some real understanding of what the issues are. A lot of the fear is coming from ignorance and misunderstanding," Ellis said.
To assist this Ellis is trying to establish standardised benchmarks so all involved in staging an event know what is required.
"That's also linked into some of the over-reaction from councils where really small events have to meet standards that are just too high. It is maybe a club event, but it has to meet standards required for something that involves 200 people."
The discussion document is available on Sparc's website, www.sparc.org.nz.
Submissions can also be lodged there.