As families who lost loved ones in the Whakaari/White Island eruption gird themselves for a Christmas without them, official figures show 2019 was a bad year for adventure activity deaths in New Zealand.
Information from health and safety rules enforcer WorkSafe show in addition to the 18 people who died as a result of the White Island explosion on December 9, five others died in adventure activity events this year.
• White Island tragedy: Will adventure tourism regulations change?
• Local government has minimal oversight of White Island
• White Island eruption: Burned tour guides out of coma, breathing on own
• White Island eruption: Sydney teen faces finding out his entire immediate family has died
• White Island tragedy: Mother and daughter die in bitter twist of fate
• Memorial service for White Island tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman
Since 2014 when the-then new Government agency's records started, and up until the tragedy on the popular Bay of Plenty volcanic tourist destination, a total of eight people had lost their lives while participating in adventure pursuits in this country. This included the five who died this year.
In March this year, two people died when the six-seater side-by-side vehicle they were in fell into a ravine, WorkSafe said.
Last month, two Australian men died during a mountain climbing expedition on the Remarkables near Queenstown.
Earlier this month, an Australian man died after falling off the Routeburn Track in the South Island while on a multi-day guided walk.
There were no deaths during 2016 and 2017.
In December 2018, one person drowned while involved in an adventure-related activity. No detail was provided by WorkSafe.
In 2014, a Taiwanese woman died while on a guided scuba dive off the Coromandel Peninsula after running out of air. WorkSafe successfully prosecuted over this accident and the company was fined $70,000 by the courts.
This is the only prosecution WorkSafe has taken since 2014.
The agency said another incident was investigated but "no actionable issues" were found. It provided no details about the incident or the year.
It said the remaining six files were still under investigation.
WorkSafe is responsible for enforcing New Zealand's health and safety laws and regulations, including those covering adventure activities.
But the adventure activity regulations are written by MBIE, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.
Any move to tighten the law and rules after the White Island tragedy would be led by MBIE.
It is responsible for national tourism policy, which covers adventure tourism.
The adventure sector is covered by the Health and Safety (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016, which come under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Asked if MBIE planned to review the regulations following the White Island eruption, its health and safety policy manager Lisa Collins said: "Any changes to the Act and the regulations under it are developed through a full policy process led and consulted on by MBIE, on behalf of the Workplace Relations and Safety Minister."
That minister is Iain Lees-Galloway. MBIE reports to 12 ministers including him.
Collins said any law changes would need to be passed by Parliament and regulation changes agreed to by Cabinet, after consultation.
MBIE officials would be among those responding to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's request for information about whether there are any investigation gaps that fall outside the current coronial inquiry being carried out by police and an investigation by WorkSafe.
Collins said adventure activities were "a diverse category, so the regulations focus on systems and processes operators need to manage the risks of the activity they are offering, rather than prescribe requirements according to specific risks".
She said MBIE had a team focused on workplace health and safety policy, which included the adventure activity regulations.
A new adventure activity regulatory regime was created in 2011, and brought fully into force by 2014. The regulations were updated in 2016 to ensure they aligned with new Health and Safety at Work 2015 legislation.
Meanwhile, WorkSafe said 10 investigators were working in Whakatāne, the Bay of Plenty town closest to White Island from which tours to the volcano departed.
Another 10 Wellington-based WorkSafe staff were working on the investigation, a spokeswoman said. Three lawyers were advising.
The probe is the health and safety watchdog's biggest since it was formed in 2013.