There was a recent front-page story about tourists who became disoriented
and lost their way while doing the cross-island trek. In response,
the Police media spokesman seemed to think that prosecution of
lost tourists to recover the costs of potential rescue efforts might
be a way to deter such occurrences.
In fact, the legal situation is quite the opposite, and the authorities
such as the Tourism Corporation owe a duty of care to ensure
the safety and security of all our visitors - and locals – who go
on the cross-island trek.
The last thing we need is a litigious-minded visitor who decides to sue
the Corporation for negligence for inviting them - via the numerous signs
and tourist-related advertising - to take the cross-island 'walk' - which
implies a gentle walk through manicured gardens - only to find
that it is more of a mountain trek with overgrown paths.
If Tourism wants to avoid legal consequences, the first thing to do would
be to change the signs to say it is a cross-island trek and for them
to have a team that regularly keeps the track in walkable condition
with good signage so that visitors do not get lost.
Or to enact regulations that require visitors to take part in guided tours
only or similar.
Actually, I recall a similar incident just a few years ago, when a visitor
(an overseas lawyer) got lost and was so annoyed that she seriously
considered taking legal action against the authorities for negligence,
however, she was eventually talked out of doing so by
Response from Chief Executive Officer of
Cook Islands Tourism,
When our visitors are on island and enjoying the experiences we have to
offer as a little paradise their safety is paramount. This is a key focus
in our work at Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.
With regards the iconic Cross-Island Trek we have an ongoing partnership
with Cook Islands Police, National Environment Service and Cook Islands Tourism
Industry Council. We have developed a series of safety communique to support
these efforts. We have distributed posters, videos, brochures, adverts,
web pages and have staff on hand at our information centre that clearly outline
our consistent messaging and safety guide for trekking on Rarotonga:
a local for advice
your accommodation or host of your intentions
at least 3-5 hours walking time for the trek
with at least a party of three
to be back down before it gets dark
you are unsure, book a guided tour with a local professional
not attempt treks if it has rained or rain is forecast
a jacket and drinking water
not rely on mobile service whilst on the trek, reception is unreliable
advised – considerable physical effort is required on parts of the trek
your footwear is clean from plant debris or seeds to stop invasive species
entering new areas
emergencies call 999
In the absence of a regulatory framework to support these efforts, it is
a continuous work in progress with our key partners and stakeholders to
strengthen this aspect of our work. With hundreds of trekkers taking on
the excursion each month we encourage all operators, accommodators and visitors
to share this information to anyone wishing to explore our beautiful island and
cross island trek. Common sense also applies.