Safety and liability are two buzz words in today’s society. When it comes to outdoor clubs, there is a lot of misconception around what the responsibilities of the club, the leaders and the individuals. 

We spoke to a few clubs to see what procedures and documentation they have, and how these were developed with reference to the law.

If you have other documents of use, feedback to give or wisdom to offer, please get in touch with us.

Canterbury University Tramping Club

CUTC runs the famous TWALK (Twenty four hour Walk) which is a large annual rogaine event, with compulsory fancy dress. Robert Phillips talks us through the thinking behind CUTC’s safety documentation when considering this event as well as normal club trips. 

Some ideas that we had to consider as we were going through the process of writing up our safety guidelines:


Make a culture in the club of keeping confidentiality of all personal individual information. If unsure on the requirements, read up on the privacy act 1993.


Make sure that members know that all responsibilities for a trip fall into their own hands


It is a good idea to outline the common roles and the responsibilities (jobs) associated with the position when going on a trip

  • For leaders of trips – keep liability away from trip leaders, and implore them to ask on collaboration however be careful that leaders do understand they have the final say.
  • Participants – ensure they are aware of whatever responsibilities your club will ask of members

Risks on a trip

Understanding the risks involved in a trip is extremely important, members need to know what getting involved in a trip means. Having a list of common hazards in NZ is a good idea, and ways to minimise these (in CUTC we created a risk register). Of course these will be different and in different weightings for different trips but having a list to look over gets people to think.

The University of Canterbury has been receiving pressure to get more clarity on what its clubs actually do. This guided the safety documentation of the Canterbury University Tramping Club to be in a structured, standardised format. The documentation includes;

  • Risk register – Relates to common hazards in the NZ backcountry
  • Codes of practice – Summaries what common responsibilities of different positions held on a trip are.
  • BASE intentions form

During the writing of documentation I referred quite regularly to the FMC Safety in the Mountains booket.

Sport NZ have another resource to help understanding of club liability.

CUTC has licenced all the safety documentation with a  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, and they encourage other clubs to make use of and build on their work.


New Zealand Canyoning Association

The NZCA is a national level organisation, which runs biennial Canyoning Festivals. These festivals attract upwards of 100 people, with many trips being lead by NZCA volunteer leaders.  The NZCA drew from the experience of the club committee members (Among whom were professional canyoning guides,  operations managers, ex-safety officers from Antarctic New Zealand and long time SAR members/instructors) to create a comprehensive Safety Management System (SMS).

The SMS includes;

  • A Safety Management Plan outlining the legal framework for the club, responsibilities, risks and hazard management.
  • Reccomended skill sets for leaders and participants
  • An official activity (trip details) sheet
  • An incident response plan

If you have other documents of use, feedback to give or wisdom to offer, please get in touch with us.