Government wants to plug gaps in safety rules for adventure tourism after 22 killed in Whakaari eruption

The Government wants to bring in tougher safety rules for adventure activity operators in response to the deadly 2019 Whakaari eruption.

Forty-seven people - most of them tourists - were on the island when it exploded and 22 were killed while others were seriously injured.

A set of proposals were unveiled on Friday to beef up adventure activity regulations.

They include requirements for operators and landowners to assess and manage risk from things like rockfalls, water surges, eruptions and avalanches.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said they were not part of the current regime and were key changes that need to happen.

"Clearly natural hazards play a significant part and some people will find it a little surprising that they weren't put on when the regime was set up in 2014 and that is one of the outcomes of this review, that they should be put explicitly in there," Wood said.

He wanted to plug gaps in the adventure activities, with tougher rules to mitigate the risks posed by natural hazards.

"People are only going to come and do these activities if they have a level of confidence that they're going to be safe and that there's an appropriate regulatory environment," Wood said.

"So while there will always be costs involved in running a regulatory system that keeps people safe, I would say the costs of having an inadequate regulatory system will be greater."

The Government's proposals will affect just over 300 organisations, both tourism businesses and recreation providers.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said they did need to take a closer look at how risks were managed.

Operators could see them as an extra burden at a time when they were struggling to survive with the borders closed, he said.

"This will be for them seen as another unwanted task that they have to undertake, but I think there will generally be a realisation that we want to keep our customers safe - that's the ultimate goal."

University of Auckland volcanologist Shane Cronin said the missing piece of the puzzle was how operators and landowners will measure risk.

"Risk is not a static thing it changes all the time, situations change, weather changes and natural environments change."

Most operators welcomed the changes and wanted to ensure their staff and customers had a safe experience, but the report highlighted gaps around who was responsible, the owner or the operator.

"That's not just at Whakaari - there are other parts of the country where that ownership is clouded or there are different types of ownership structures in place."

More effort needed to be put into developing tools for natural hazard risk evaluation and providing assistance to help operators comply with it, Cronin said.

Regulation was one thing, but landowners and operators needed assistance to fulfil those obligations and not palm them off, he said.