“There needs to be more control over it. If there is one body that can say, ‘if the weather is bad, let’s close the track’, then I’m all for it,” Ngawati said. “For some operators, it’s just a monetary thing, but we have a duty of care and need to make sure our clients have a good experience.”
Terry Blumhardt, chair of the TAC Transport and Guide concessionaires group, said competition between operators was an issue, but it was difficult to regulate without impinging on personal responsibility.
“The competitive factor can lead to people making bad decisions. Anecdotal evidence suggests that’s the case,” Blumhardt said. “It both worries me about the safety and frustrates me about the professionalism of the industry in the area.
“Personally, I would like to see solidarity among the industry. If everyone chooses not to go on a given day, that sends a clear message.
“Expecting DOC to make choices for the public seems a bit rough. If people are experienced, prepared and understand the conditions, you shouldn’t prevent them from making an informed decision.”
DOC Tongariro operations manager Bhrent Guy said the department had been looking at the issue for a number of years, but there were no plans to put any more rules in place. It was up to the concession-holders to make better decisions, he said.
“We aren’t entirely happy, but we are getting there. I don’t believe regulation is the way to go,” Guy said.
DOC was looking at using social media to alert people to the risks and to be prepared for the crossing. Rangers had also been based on the track over the summer, advising walkers of the weather and what equipment they would need.
(See TRM video to illustrate the rapid change in weather conditions)