Six Point Plan - Inquest into the death of Zoe Woolmer

On 15 June 2014 a tragic accident occurred during a guided tour in Watarrka National Park which resulted in the falling death of Ms Zoe Woolmer, a tourist from the United Kingdom. During the coronial investigation into Ms Woolmer’s death, the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory (the commission) provided the coroner with a six point plan with a view to improving public safety at the park and reducing risk of a similar incident happening again.

Across all parks and reserves managed by the commission across the NT, the commission has endeavoured to provide the best possible information to assist tour operators and visitors make well informed and sensible decisions when undertaking activities on parks and reserves. The inquest into this accident, and the recommendations of the coroner, have provided the commission with a clear direction to review and improve its processes and procedures, particularly in relation to the granting of permits to tour operators and the enforcement of the terms and conditions of the tour operator permit.

Details of the six point plan are:

  1. Amend the permit conditions to prohibit the use of photos depicting dangerous activities for marketing purposes or any other purpose.
  2. Amend the permit conditions for tour operators doing regular tours at Watarrka to require all tour guides operating in that park to have completed an induction course conducted by the commission.
  3. Amend the permit conditions for tour operators doing regular tours at Watarrka to require all tour guides sign an acknowledgement form before a ranger or other officer of the commission relating to their knowledge and understanding of permit conditions, heat management plan, park safety rules and their employer’s, and their own, obligations, including under section 19(2), 28 and 29 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act, and of the penalties that can be imposed for failure to comply.
  4. Monitor compliance of permit conditions by measures including the following:
    a. social media and web site monitoring
    b. informal debriefing of park visitors
    c. using un-uniformed people to accompany or observe tour group activities.
  5. When reports of conduct constituting breaches of permit conditions are received, initiating high level direct contact between commission officers and permit holders involved to require them to immediately take effective steps to ensure there are no further instances of such conduct. Also, when such reports are received, notify NT Worksafe of the information obtained.
  6. Sending a letter to all permit holders who conduct tours in the Watarrka National Park, informing them of a zero tolerance policy for breaches of permit conditions jeopardising the safety of tourists in the park and for using photographs depicting dangerous activity for marketing purposes. The letter will also remind permit holders of their duties under sections 19(2) and 27 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act, as well as the penalties involved, and advising them that the commission will pass on all reports of such activities to NT Worksafe for action by that regulatory authority. Zero tolerance means permit holders should expect to be asked to show cause as to why their permits should not be revoked if breaches of the kind described above occur.

Last updated: 11 October 2017