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State Auditor Finds Zipline Regulation Not Warranted

October 15, 2012, 12:00 PM HST · Updated October 15, 1:31 PM
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zipline skyline ecotour waterfall zip line

File photo. Image courtesy of Skyline Eco Adventures.

By Sonia Isotov

The Hawaii State Auditor released a report Friday stating that regulation of the zipline and canopy tours was not warranted, and furthermore, that the state was incapable of oversight due to staffing, money, and expertise issues.

Today, there are 22 ziplines and canopy tours throughout the state. Last year, a Lahaina man died and another suffered serious injuries while working on a zipline course on the Big Island.

In response to raised concerns regarding the safety of the operations and the need for further regulation, the 2012 Legislature asked the state auditor to analyze a bill (S.B. No. 2433, S.D. 2) that related to challenge course technology and included an assessment of alternative forms of regulation for the industry.

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The auditor stated in her report that the department applied the Hawai‘i Regulatory Licensing Reform Act (HRLRA) which limits regulation of professions and vocations, but not businesses such as zipline and canopy tour operators. In order to apply the HRLRA, the Legislature would have had to show evidence that merits regulation.

Zipline. File photo.

“Despite risks inherent in thrill rides, there was insufficient data of serious harm to the public to warrant regulation,” stated the auditor in the report, “Evidence of abusive practices was anecdotal and mostly alleged by industry members against so called ‘wildcatter’ facilities that are not constructed and operated per industry safety standards and do not have sufficient insurance coverage.

“However, we found that all 22 businesses are required by their insurance agencies to provide annual inspection reports by insurer-accredited companies designated under industry standards as qualified challenge course professionals. As a result, the industry is basically self-regulating.”

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The proposed bill would have required annual inspections be performed by state elevator inspectors or private inspectors certified by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

In addition, the state auditor stated that the DLIR would need $400,000 initially and $350,000 each year to create and maintain a self-sufficient inspection and permitting program. To fund such an operation, the department would have to charge each of the 22 operators an initial licensing fee of $18,000, as well as an annual fee of $15,000. The bill proposes an initial and annual fee of $100.

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