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Crossing the t’s

What certifications are tourism businesses required to have in place to operate in New Zealand?

Tourism operators play a crucial role in ensuring a positive and safe experience for visitors from around the world. As a Business Advisor I am not infrequently surprised to find some operators unaware of the necessary regulatory requirements. This article aims to provide tourism operators with a concise synopsis of regulatory requirements. Additionally, it offers valuable information for international visitors to consider when selecting tourism operators to ensure their safety and well-being is looked after.

The Health and Safety at Work Act requires all businesses to take all reasonable practicable steps to ensure their workplaces are safe free from the risk of ill-health and harm. Even with the best of intent and management, events can still occur. New Zealand has a no-fault Accident Compensation Scheme. This means ACC covers the cost of treatment for accidents. It may also provide compensation for ongoing loss. The ACC system means individuals cannot sue others for loss due to injury. More information on ACC.

All tourism operators want you to have a safe an enjoyable time here in New Zealand. Below are some insights into the systems and certifications we have in place to ensure our visitors have a safe experience here.

TSL Transport Service Licenses are required by all passenger transport operators except for those who provide a genuine courtesy transfer*. Transport Services Licenses are issued by Waka Kotahi. Vehicles used for passenger transport, including rental vehicles, are required to have a COF (Certificate of Fitness) as well as a WOF (Warrant of Fitness) which all road vehicles in New Zealand are required to have. Vehicle drivers must hold a current P Endorsement which must be displayed in the vehicle. Category endorsements maybe required depending on the size of the vehicle being driven. You can find more information here:

*Genuine courtesy transfers such as accommodation – airport, or activity operator pick ups, where there is no additional charge, guests have an opportunity to make their own way, and where driving is not the drivers primary role, do not require a TSL.

AAO – Adventure Activity Operator Audits are required to be held by most higher risk adventure activity operators. There are some exceptions such as most bungy jumping operations, which fall under WorkSafe Amusement devices, and Skydiving which falls under Civil Aviation. You can view list of audited adventure activity operators here:

MNZ – Maritime New Zealand administer the Health and Safety at Work Act and maritime regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Marine operators are required to hold an approved Maritime Operator Safety System certification. This requires an approved MTOP, Maritime Transport Operators Plan and the issuance of a MTOC, Maritime Transport Operators Certificate. You can search registered vessels here:

CAA. Civil aviation is the regulatory authority under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA)for aviation in New Zealand. Aviation operators are required to hold an approved SMS Safety Management System. As well as rotary (helicopters etc.) and fixed wing aircraft they also regulate other activities such as Skydiving, Paragliding, Hang gliding, Microlights, Hot air ballooning.  and some drones. There is a registry of approved Aircraft here:

DOC Concession. Commercial operators who operate on Department of Conservation managed land are required to hold a concession. Concession requirements are for operators to hold and approved Safety Management plan which is relevant to the scope of their operation. In some instances, concessions are issued to members of associations and groups. There is no requirement for the individual members to supply an approved safety management plan. Operators who are operate in dangerous terrain or provide an adventure activity may also be required to hold an Adventure Activity Audit. Passenger Transport Operators who visit DOC managed parks and reserves to use facilities are also required to hold a valid concession however an approved safety plan is not required.

WorkSafe Amusement Device Some activities fall under Worksafe amusement device certification, this include activities such as bungy jumping from cranes, giant swings from cranes, go carts as well as things like fairground rides. More information here:

Risk disclosure statements: Adventure Activity Operators are required to disclose any specific risks which may be present by participating in their activity. Businesses cannot contract out of their legal obligations, which are make sure you don’t get hurt through their action or in-action. Make sure you read the risk disclosure statement and are aware of the risks. There are always risks in the outdoor environment and not all risks can be fully mitigated. It is good practice for any activity operator to have a risk disclosure statement. This should be made available prior to booking.

Approved Fire Evacuation Scheme. Surprisingly not all commercial accommodation is required to have an approved fire evacuation scheme. They do have to have an evacuation procedure. This is typically determined by the style of the accommodation and the ability for guests to easily and safely exit a building. More information here:

ISO International Standards Organisation provide a range on internationally recognised best practice standards. These typically look at elements such as Safety Management Systems, Business Systems, Quality Manage Systems Environmental management. ISO’s are independently audited by accredited auditors. Audit reports are moderated to ensure the highest audit standards are maintained.

Qualmark – Is owned by Tourism New Zealand and provides sustainable tourism business evaluations to members. Accredited operators are required to meet minimum health and safety requirements which demonstrate their business has an appropriate safety management system. Qualmark provides a health and safety health check and is not a health and safety audit. Qualmark evaluations verify operators hold all necessary compliance requirements. Qualmark accreditation can be used as evidence of a safety management plan for DOC concessions. Qualmark

Some activities do not meet the threshold to require and adventure activity audit. In which case it’s good to check your guides are suitably qualified to ensure your safety.

International Surfing Association (ISA) is an international standard for surf instruction. Surfing New Zealand provide Level one instructor courses. This is the minimum standard for SNZ approved surf schools. You can view SNZ approved surf schools here:

NZQA Certificate in Outdoor leadership (Guiding) (Level 5) with strands in Bush, Caving, Mountain Biking (Grade 4), National Raft Guide (Grade III), National Raft Guide (Grade IV/V), National River Boarding Guide (Grade III), National River Boarding Guide (Grade IV/V), Rock Climbing, Canoeing, High Wire, Sea Kayaking, and Whitewater Kayaking.

NZOIA – New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association – Training provider for outdoor Instructors in activities such as Alpine Guiding, Bush Guiding (tramping/hiking), canoeing and kayaking, canyoning, caving, mountain biking and climbing walls.

Independent Safety Specialist.

There are many independent health and safety advisers who provide their own safety check ‘certification’. Health and Safety professionals who certify operators should hold a professional accreditation e.g. NZISM Practitioner and above, and/or be a HASANZ registered health and safety practitioner. Safety Specialist

Other relevant regulations:

Liquor licensing – Businesses who supply alcohol for reward, which may include an advertised component of a product, require a Liquor License. For example, operators who advertise a complementary [alcoholic] drink may require a liquor license. These are administered by District Licensing Committees.

Food Safety Certificates – Regional Councils administer Food Act 2014 regulations. Essentially all businesses which provide food must have a certified food safety plan with the exception of small accommodation operators who provide food to less than 10 guests, or who provide snacks or breakfasts.