Peak experiences: Challenge and danger in mountain recreation in New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis investigates the place of risk in mountain recreation in New Zealand. Risk is defined as a situation with positive and negative outcomes, and uncertainty as to their occurrence. The conceptual framework of this thesis deviates from the usual geographic approach to risk - the natural hazards paradigm - and develops an approach which elucidates the context, experience and management of risk. The experience of risk is an interaction of people and environment in which positive outcomes (i.e. challenge) are sought and negative outcomes (i.e. danger) may occur. Both the positive and negative aspects of risk are examined in this thesis, with emphasis on the relationship between them. This research explores the ways in which risk is viewed, accepted and experienced. It investigates the historically and locationally specific development of the risk management framework in New Zealand within which the individual, subculture and society have pursued target levels of risk. The ways in which the individual, subculture and society have interacted to create that framework is emphasized. These ideas are explored in both historical and contemporary contexts through four main sources of information. The mountain recreation literature was used to elaborate the ways in which the risk management framework evolved along with the changing mix of participants and activities undertaken. New forms of management at subcultural and societal levels emerged in response to changes in the way mountain recreation was viewed and experienced by individuals. One important indicator of such change was the fatality picture. Accidents are both a product of recreation behaviour and an influence on it. For this reason a detailed study was made of the mountain recreation fatalities, primarily through coroners' reports. This provided links to the wider experience and development of mountain recreation. The mountain recreation literature regarding the occurrence of accidents, either singly or in aggregate, outlines some of the parameters specifying subcultural and societal ideas about risk. To obtain an in depth view of the place of risk in the experiences of current day recreationists a questionnaire survey of 915 skiers, hunters, day walkers, trampers and climbers was undertaken, and personal interviews with eighteen recreationists took place. Their experiences with both positive and negative aspects of risk were explored, as was behaviour with implications for risk management. The conceptual approach adopted for this research, with its focus on positive and negative aspects of risk, the actual experience of risk, and the context of risk as an accepted and sought after element of mountain recreation enables the comprehensive exploration of risk situations. This has provided the elucidation of individual, subcultural and societal interactions, in historical and contemporary perspectives, with regard to the management of risk in mountain recreation.