Glacier safety advice criticised

Despite  warning signs, some tourists still risk their lives by crossing into roped-off areas to...
Despite warning signs, some tourists still risk their lives by crossing into roped-off areas to get closer to the ice face at Franz Josef glacier. Photo by Matthew Haggart.
A coroner's recommendation to restrict access to the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers has been criticised by the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand.

Coroner Richard McElrea on Wednesday recommended restricting access to the glacier seracs as part of his findings into the deaths of two Australian men - crushed under falling ice at the Fox Glacier ice face in January last year.

Brothers Akshay Miranda (22) and Ashish Miranda (24), both of Melbourne, were on holiday in New Zealand to celebrate their parents' silver wedding anniversary when the family visited the Franz Josef Glacier and ignored warning signs to stay clear of the ice face.

Mr McElrea has called for Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson to "take steps" to create bylaws to restrict or close public access to the terminal face of the Fox Glacier.

Anyone who breached the bylaws could be instantly fined, his report said.

The same recommendations could also apply to the Franz Josef glacier face, the report said.

Federated Mountain Clubs president Richard Davies said it was a tragedy the two young people were killed.

However, he cautioned against a "knee-jerk, simplistic" response to "close off" access to the two glaciers.

"We can't lose sight of the fact that the Fox and Franz Josef are wild landscapes in a National Park. They are much beloved by climbers, skiers and trampers, as well as tourists, because they are wild," Mr Davies said.

The natural landscape of the glaciers is "no place for steel barriers and security guards", he said.

Visitors accessing New Zealand's wild places needed to be aware of the inherent hazards.

More attention needed to be given by tourists to the education and hazards information, which was nearly always provided for by the Department of Conservation in popular locations, Mr Davies said.

"Hundreds of thousands of people visit New Zealand's conservation lands to enjoy landscapes and experience [something] different from what you'll find in the city."

In popular wilderness areas, such as the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, hazards were already fenced off to ensure people's safety, Mr Davies said.

"We cant keep building bigger fences."

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