Looming changes to safety laws have spurred a Wairarapa school to ban pupils from climbing trees.

The Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force early next month in response to the Pike River Mine disaster, with the initial aim of ensuring big business is vigilant about worker safety.

The act will also cover community agencies and charity events, and effectively makes principals liable for fines of up to $600,000.

Greytown Primary School principal Kevin Mackay last week sent out a newsletter saying pupils were temporarily banned from climbing trees "until there is certainty" regarding the new act.


There were about half a dozen trees pupils climbed and he refused to paint height limits, though taller trees were always out of bounds.

"Risk is part of learning and yes, we have had some children fall out of the trees. But nobody has been seriously injured and none has ever fallen out of a tree twice. They learn," he said.

New Zealand School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr said the organisation was "telling schools' boards of trustees not to panic", but to ensure robust health and safety policies were in place.