What is an adventure activity?

All adventure activities operators must pass a safety audit and be registered. This guide helps explain what adventure activities are covered by the Adventure Activities Regulations.

Summary of Regulation 4 of the Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016(external link)

An adventure activity is:

  • an activity that is paid for

and

  • land-based or water-based 
    (planes, helicopters, and hot air balloons are not included but, for example, the skiing aspect of heli-skiing is included because it is a land-based activity)

and

  • an activity that involves the participant being guided, taught how, or assisted to participate in the activity

and

  • recreational or educational

and

  • designed to deliberately expose the participant to a serious risk that must be managed by the provider of the activity
    (i.e. the activities must have a reasonably high level of inherent risk)

and

  • an activity that, if the provider fails to manage the activity properly, is likely to result in serious risk to the participant

or

  • an activity in which the participant is deliberately exposed to dangerous terrain or dangerous waters.

As can be seen in the summary box, all of the criteria contained in Regulation 4 must be met for an activity to be defined as an ‘adventure activity’.

There is not a single authoritative list as to exactly which activities are covered by the regulations: activities are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the definition provided in the regulations.

Operators need to work through the criteria and decide if the activities they provide are adventure activities. If they are, then the operator must organise a safety audit, pass it and get registered by WorkSafe.

To help in the decision process, this guidance document has sorted a number of activities into three columns. This classification reflects the range and diversity of the activities in the adventure tourism and outdoor commercial sector, and some of the complexities.

Activities nearly certain to be subject to the regulations

These activities are nearly certain to be subject to the regulations. They are at the higher end of the risk spectrum and need the operator to actively manage the safety of participants.

Before endorsing, booking with, or contracting an operator providing these activities, check that the operator is registered with WorkSafe.

If the operator is not listed on the  WorkSafe Register of adventure activity operators(external link), ask to see a written opinion addressed to the operator from WorkSafe that the operator is not subject to the regulations.

Activities that might be subject to the regulations under certain circumstances

These activities are nearly certain to NOT be subject to the regulations. They are considered to be at the lower end of the risk spectrum or they are excluded from the regulations because another legislative requirement covers that activity.

If it was felt that the operator is providing a particularly extreme form of one of these activities, it might be worth checking the WorkSafe Register of adventure activity operators(external link) to see if the operator is registered, or asking to see a written opinion addressed to the operator from WorkSafe that the operator is not subject to the regulations.

For excluded activities, such as white water rafting and skydiving, check whether the other relevant regulatory requirements are met.

Activities nearly certain to NOT be subject to the regulations

These activities might be subject to the regulations under certain circumstances. They sit in the middle because sometimes they fit the definition of adventure activities, and sometimes they do not. The decision generally comes down to the level of risk involved in the activity and the terrain or operating area in which the activity is conducted.

As with the activities in the nearly certain to be subject to the regulations column, check that the operator is registered with WorkSafe before endorsing, booking with, or contracting an operator providing these activities. If the operator is not listed on the WorkSafe register, ask to see a written opinion addressed to the operator from WorkSafe that the operator is not subject to the regulations.

If no documentation is available, interested parties can reach their own view about whether the activity appears to be covered by the regulations. The adventure activity operator decision tree and other guidance on this website can help. 

Adventure activities decision tree (PDF 28 KB)

Activities nearly certain to be subject to the regulationsActivities that might be subject to the regulations under certain circumstancesActivities nearly certain to NOT be subject to the regulations
  • Abseiling (outdoors)
  • Back-country skiing
  • Bridge swinging
  • Bungy jumping (although most are covered by the Amusement Devices Regulations)
  • Canyon swinging
  • Canyoning
  • Glacier walking
  • High rope, high wire activities
  • Zip wire (over 2 metres high)
  • Mountaineering
  • River boarding
  • Rock climbing (outdoors)
  • Snow Caving
  • SCUBA (except in a swimming pool)
  • Alpine hiking / tramping
  • Canoeing and kayaking
  • Caving
  • Coasteering
  • Fishing (land-based)
  • Horse trekking
  • Hunting (e.g. alpine)
  • Mountain biking
  • Off-road vehicle driving, quad biking or trail biking
  • Ropes / Challenge courses 2-3m high
  • Sailing (small craft)
  • Snorkelling/free diving
  • Skiing, snowboarding or sliding on snow (outdoors and outside a patrolled ski area)
  • Surfing/stand up paddle boarding
  • Tramping/ Trekking
  • Waka, Waka Ama
  • Cycling – non specialist (eg on cycle paths, roads, around vineyards etc)
  • Guided walking (formed tracks)
  • Skiing, snowboarding or sliding on snow (indoors or within a patrolled ski area
  • Swimming with seals/dolphins (Maritime NZ)
  • Adventure aviation (Civil Aviation Authority) e.g. ballooning, microlights, stunt flights, skydiving, paragliding and hang gliding
  • Boating (Maritime NZ)
  • Jet boating (Maritime NZ)
  • White water rafting (Maritime NZ)

Disclaimer

The information in this publication has no statutory or regulatory effect and is of a guidance nature only. The information should not be relied upon as a substitute for the wording of the Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016 . While every effort has been made to ensure this information is accurate, WorkSafe New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand and the Tourism Industry Association do not accept any responsibility or liability for error of fact, omission, interpretation or opinion that may be present, nor for the consequences of any decisions based on this information

For more detailed information

WorkSafe Adventure Activities