The Adventure Activities Standards Authority Bill, 2000, addresses serious issues regarding the safety of people in outdoor activity centres. As the Act will have major implications for the industry, it is important that the structures put in place by the Act are effective and operable. I have a number of suggestions for the Bill, some of which I made before the suspension of the House last week. I hope the Minister has considered them for inclusion.
Outdoor Education Ireland, among others, is the leading partner in the setting and implementation of safety standards and good work practices in adventure sports. This should be publicly acknowledged, and recognition should be afforded to the respective vocational education committees and the Department of Education and Science for their leadership. As I have said in the past, Cappanalea in County Kerry is one of the finest examples of an outdoor activity centre in Europe and is recognised as such. People come from Europe and beyond to see how it operates and to witness its good practices. It should be used as a model for all outdoor activity centres.
While it is proposed to exclude educational institutions and schools from the legislation, the outdoor education centres, as leading players in adventure education, should be fully included in the licensing scheme and should act as a resource to the schools in the provision of safe adventure education programmes on the curriculum. Having read some of the contributions of other speakers, I noticed that Deputy Keaveney drew attention to the exclusion of the educational institutions and schools from the legislation. Will the Minister address this?
Outdoor Education Ireland, the organisation responsible for outdoor public education centres should have a seat, by right, on the proposed authority. Similarly, the Chief Executive Officers' Association should have one, as a public provider of adventure education. Two of the four seats for providers on the authority should be dedicated to the public providers as they represent the largest sector in outdoor adventure-sport provision.
Substantial, indirect costs for providers associated with the compliance of the agreed safety standards will be incurred by instruction, training, the need for enhanced qualifications, equipment investment and the renewal and upgrading of facilities. There should be no direct costs in terms of fees or charges associated with the licensing of providers. Those direct costs must be borne by the State as is the case with the Health and Safety Authority. No fees should be charged to providers. Will the Minister of State respond to this point? Substantial costs will be involved in upgrading such centres, providing retaining, improving equipment and so on. This will be a major imposition on the providers who in most cases do not make large profits. Activity centres generally pay their way and cover the costs of wages, but very few people involved in activity centres make big money. Most of them are sports enthusiasts who are involved as much for the love of the activity as for the money. If a major financial charge is imposed on the providers of activity centres, which will happen as a result of this Bill, the State should help them. The Minister of State might refer to that point.
While there is scope for the authority to expand the list of prescribed activities, that list should be expanded from the outset to include raft building, of which I have some experience. This is a potentially high risk water based activity which is practised in most multi-activity adventure centres. While the more traditional adventure sports already have operational guidelines, raft building has no generic industry-wide safety guidelines. For that reason and in the interests of safety, I strongly recommend that raft building is included in the list of prescribed activities outlined in the Bill.
This is important legislation. Activity centres will become more popular in the future. Many in the corporate sector book them for weekends for their employees to improve staff cohesion, to encourage co-operation among the workforce and a healthier lifestyle and to motivate employees. It is becoming a big business.
Outdoor activity is becoming a big business in America and usually we follow what happens there. Some major American corporations such as Boeing, Dupont, Johnson & Johnson take employees to such centres for weekends or for a week at a time to work out and partake in vigorous activities. This will also become a trend here.
It is also becoming popular for families to go to such centres. I am aware of families who go to Cappanalea and other outdoor activity centres for weekends. It is a great way for a family to bond and to increase understanding.