I have to come clean right at the beginning here and say I do not look forward to audits.

With this in mind, I have to admit that while still requiring a great deal of preparatory work, the audits we have had of late were substantially more positive affairs than what I would have expected in the past.

In the past, these affairs were often more of a box-ticking exercise. Tick the right boxes, and you passed, have a few blanks, and you did not. I believe the auditors were at that time instructed not to offer advice or guidance. This lack of guidance from those auditors is in marked contrast to what we have experienced of late.

During the audits we have experienced lately, the auditors, without exception seemed to both honestly believe in what they were doing and were also prepared and needed little encouragement to share their knowledge on how to make our systems work better.

We have recently undergone two audits, AdventureMark and Qualmark.

The first audit was to do with renewing our AdventureMark.

AdventureMark is issued by the agency carrying out the audit that ensures we are operating under the Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016. This year was a particularly significant audit as white water rafting, which had previously been administered by Maritime NZ and governed by different legislation, was being brought under the Adventure Activities legislation umbrella.

Pretty much every facet of our water-based adventure activities was prodded, inspected, observed and taken apart. This inspection covered from what guides wore or carried on the river, right through to an in-depth look at our administration procedures and of course our Safety Management System. Feedback was constructive.

The second audit was for Qualmark.

What is Qualmark? I quote here from Tourism New Zealand’s website – “Qualmark is a certification that highlights tourism providers who are delivering a quality sustainable experience, who have safe principles and practices, and showcase true New Zealand hospitality. You can book with confidence knowing you’ll find a warm welcome from a business that operates in an ethical, professional and environmentally friendly way, protecting what makes New Zealand unique.”

This was our first Qualmark audit in 12 years. We had left Qualmark in 2008 as we felt, that at the time, we were not receiving the support we expected.

Two auditors arrived just after lunch, and over that afternoon and the following morning, we looked at how River Valley (including River Valley Stables) operated within these broad headings:

  • Economic
  • Environment and Culture
  • Social & People
  • Health, Safety and Wellness

This process was very different from what I remembered from our previous foray in Qualmark all those years ago. This time there was not just some box-ticking. We learned a great deal and received some great ideas and suggestions for improvement in some areas. In particular, it was suggested that we look at utilising some of the newer apps that are now available. These would dovetail into our existing systems and ensure they were more living documents and processes.

While it would be hard to say that all these suggestions were exciting, or that audits have become “fun”, it would be fair to say that the suggestions for improvement will be of value to us.  Implementing some of those suggestions will also contribute to the positive experiences our customers receive.

Now to put some of those suggestions into practice!


Brian Megaw

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