Saturday, March 26, 2016

New Zealand strict no sue Laws

If you read my March 13th blog, you know I’ve led an adventurous life which I often share with my characters in my books. In Public Secrets, Carla goes down a 23’ waterfall and lands right-side up. When I took the waterfall in real life, they said there was a 20% chance of landing well.
Sounds dangerous, right? What if I had fallen out and broken my neck in the fall? Could my relatives sue somebody?


The government has a written document you must sign to take part in all their fun events. It’s not written in legalese. It’s very clear. If you die partaking in an extreme sports event no one can sue the operator of said event nor the New Zealand government which oversees the proper operation of the events even if they did something that inadvertently results in your death.

You sign all rights of suing away when you sign the document. If you don't sign the document, you'll have a very dull vacation.

Turns out Death isn’t a vague once in a while occurrence.

People really do die. The day I arrived on the southern Island, three people died and another nearly drowned. One got blown off the Routeburn track, (I almost went off at the exact same spot when I got hit by an intense wind.) 
A grandmother died when a road on the side of a mountain gave way. The grandmother had ridden up to watch her granddaughter bungee jump. So surely her relatives can sue!

Nope.  The road had signs declaring it was unsafe and warned peeps not to use it. So technically, they were all participating in an extreme event by driving up the dangerous road.

A rafter died on white water trip, which I took a few days later. I know exactly where the fellow died. A turn in the river caused a massive wave of water to hit the canyon wall and roll upwards, then roll over hitting the raft like a twelve-foot-wide sledgehammer, knocking many in the raft out of it. Unfortunately, the guy was literally knocked unconcious and he drowned. Here's a pic of my trip right before the giant wave slams into us. As you can see an unconscious body could easily be lost in these rapids.

Then a little Japanese guy had hired a guide to take him hang gliding. The hang glider can hold two people. The guide should be buckled in below so he can control the hang glider while the tourist is clicked higher so he can't mess with the steering mechanism.

So you have some idea what this looks like, here is a picture of me and my instructor. I am below flying the hang-glider and my instructor is slightly above me, but close enough to take over if I freeze (which I didn't).

I was there learning how to hang-glide, but with silly tourists, they click them much higher than my instructor so they can't touch anything and the guide would be where I am (with hands on the bar).  

Unfortunately, the guide forgot to click himself in, so the second he pushed off the mountain, he fell onto the rocks, while the little Japanese man floated off with the hang glider. The man could not reach the bar, so he couldn't steer the hang glider. Instead, he just closed his eyes. A standard paid trip lasts less than a half-hour, but the hang glider remained in the air for four hours! 

The man was very lucky. The glider could have crashed into the mountain, hit a tree, snagged electrical wires. Instead, it landed in a lake. Still, had the hang glider not come down nose first, then flipped upside down when the nose tip snagged the water, he might have drowned before the scuba rescue divers got to him. Fortunately, when it flipped it allowed the rescuers easy access to the man so they could unclip him before the hang glider sank and pulled him to the bottom of the very deep lake.

What type of events can you do in NZ once you sign your life away?
Hang-gliding, bungee jumping off bridges, death-defying crazy helicopter rides, white-water rafting, high-speed boating that could so easily end up in a fiery death as you zip through huge rocks just inches from the sides of the boat. And of course, you can go down a 23-foot waterfall, glacier walks, volcano tours, swimming with two hundred dolphins, and black water cave rafting.  And then there's a great many winter sports which rank high in the serious accident category.

For an adrenaline junkie, I highly recommend New Zealand. But seriously recognize when they say it is dangerous and hand you that waiver, they aren't kidding. You cannot sue ANYONE when participating in these extreme sports. 

If the extreme sport-shops had to buy insurance to cover themselves via normal insurance markets it would be unaffordable. Thus, the New Zealand government stepped up as their insurer, by writing a required waiver which tourists must sign to participate. This allows their plethora of small businesses to flourish as people sign their waivers so they may experience adventures of a lifetime. 

And while some of you might avoid my events, it's possible you'd like to ride on a boat and watch pods of 300 dolphins swim about your boat. To even do that, you'll have to sign the waiver, because a whale might come up and tip your boat over.  Or the captain could forget to fuel up before heading off and his radio doesn't work. Doesn't matter. You signed the waiver!

Does that mean these businesses aren't held accountable when they screw up? Not at all. The government can refuse any of the businesses a license to operate if they deem it unreliable or reckless. For example, Helicopter bungee jumping, using a two thousand foot bungee rope, was a hot new business, until someone realized that the people walking on the ground would be endangered if the bungee cord broke, and they HAD NOT signed a waiver. So all Helicopter bungee jumping businesses were immediately shut down.

I was there when they shut them down, and the tourist trade was not happy at all. In fact, they were most outraged. There had been over 2000 jumps with no injuries. Why were they shut down? People were coming from all over the world to bungee jump out of a helicopter.

In 2015, New Zealand tourist business was nearly $30 billion, that's 81.6 million a day. 

While only 29 people have died from extreme sports in over a five year time frame, lots of people do get hurt. 540 people were seriously injured in the same five years. But if you are hurt, they will try to make you better. You just can't sue. 

However, there are cases where the courts have fined businesses (usually less than $100k) or persons have been brought up on manslaughter charges for acting grievously outside of acceptable practices which resulted in the death of a person. But rarely are they found guilty.


With a new identity, Amanda believes she has left her past behind. Then she acquires a stalker. She contacts the FBI and in doing so alerts a program she once created to her location. Now ensconced in the internet, the program is safe from harm, smarter than ever, and sentient. Presenting itself on her phone as a handsome face with a sexy British accent, “Adam” ingratiates himself into Amanda’s life. To ensure her safety and happiness, the sentient program proves there is absolutely nothing he can’t and won’t do.


  1. Well, bummer.
    Thnaks for sharing, Liza.

  2. Check off going to New Zealand for extreme anything. No thanks. I'd like my family to at least get their insurance if something happens to me. :)

  3. Well as long as you buy insurance in the US, they will. You just can't sue New Zealand. They believe in self-responsibility.


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