Kep Ultra not to continue as an approved event due to WA Government incompetence
The 2015 event is likely to be the last Kep Ultra where I will seek Government approvals and race sanctioning. This page outlines the reasons behind this decision but in short, after I submitted all documentation, and met all requirements for approvals within the required time frames, the West Australian Government’s Department of Lands advised at 3:40pm on Friday 29 May (less than two days before race day) they would not issue the required licence.
Because of this decision I was left with a situation where I had runners in the State ready to race not only from Western Australia, but also from Europe and the Eastern States…however I had no indemnity insurance. The Department of Lands’ ruling had meant that the guidelines of the Australian Ultra Runners Association (AURA ) for race sanctioning re approvals were now not met and as such the indemnity insurance sourced by the Kep Ultra through AURA was now not in place. All Government instrumentalities require events to have public liability / indemnity insurance, and as such all other approvals obtained by the Kep Ultra fell over like a house of cards.
Faced with a decision to cancel the race when all entrants had already arrived in Perth ready to take part, or let the race continue as planned, without approvals, I chose the latter. This meant that as no public liability / indemnity insurance was in place, my personal assets were at risk should an incident lead to me being sued by a participant.
This is totally and utterly unacceptable to me, and something I will never risk occurring again. Given the past record of my dealings with Government instrumentalities, especially the Department of Lands in regards to obtaining the approvals required, I have absolutely no confidence I will not be put in a similar situation in future years.
The Kimberley Ultra Marathon was a tragedy, and I feel much of the attention the Kep Ultra receives from Government is because of what occurred at that event. However I believe the attention is just there so public servants can tick boxes, to insure they are seen to have done the right thing.
The findings from the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Kimberley Ultra Marathon provided an opportunity for Government and ultra race organisers to work together to create a safer environment for ultra runners taking part in events in Western Australia.
Instead it appears most of the recommendations of the Inquiry report have not been acted on, and the only result has been low to mid level bureaucrats either madly looking to tick boxes, or run for cover.
Seeking Government approvals in Western Australia for an ultra running event is a convoluted and confusing process, for Kep no less than seven instrumentalities need to provide their rubber stamp. It is a process that will put off many potential race organisers…and the alternative is that such events go underground. And that is a sad state of affairs. At the end of the day all most ultra runners want to do is go and run, Government approvals in place or not.
Race Director, Kep Ultra
6 June 2015
WHY DIDN'T THE DEPARTMENT OF LANDS ISSUE THE LICENCE?
2015 was the seventh edition of the Kep Ultra, the first being held in 2009. Prior to 2013, no approval was sought from the Department of Lands, as I was not aware this was required. After the Kimberley Ultra Marathon report findings were released in 2012, I was advised by the National Trust I would now be required to seek Department of Land’s approval. My initial communication to the the Department of Regional Development & Lands was not replied to, nor was a subsequent email. This led me to write to the then Minister of Regional Development & Lands Brendan Grylls seeking his assistance in soliciting a response and action.
In a nutshell, the reason Department of Lands did not issue a licence for the 2015 event, is that they did not receive advice of approval from the Department of Mines and Petroleum as outlined in their letter of 29 May.
Now before you read on, please remember the Kep Ultra is held on a publicly accessible walking track, publicised as such by the WA Government , on the Sunday of a public holiday weekend. If any dangers existed, they would have applied exactly the same to the thousands of public users who would have used the track that weekend.
The Department of Lands refers to the fact that in 2014 the Department of of Mines and Petroleum had required I contact holders of exploration licenses, as a precaution to determine if any exploration activities were planned on the day of the Kep Ultra. The Department of Mines & Petroleum fully acknowledged “Exploration activities on the affected exploration licenses should not raise any safety concerns.”
What are these exploration licence holders going to do? Blast dynamite on the publicly accessible Kep Track on the Sunday of a long weekend, and do this without letting anyone know? And for this the Department of Lands pulls the rug from under an event less than two days beforehand?
I ask myself these questions:
- The Kep Ultra submitted the application to the Department of Lands on February 12 2015, well within their recommended three month period. On what date did the Department of Lands contact the Department of Mines & Petroleum regarding the Kep Ultra Application?
- On what dates did the Department of Lands follow up the approval with the Department of Mines & Petroleum?
- Why was no Department of Mines & Petroleum approval required for the 2013 event?
- Why does the Department of Lands suggest that in future years the Kep Ultra seek the consent of mining & petroleum rights holders, when no such consent was required in 2013 and 2014?
- Are these anomalies in the approval requirements because the legislation changes every year? Or is it because the Department of Lands doesn’t now what it is doing? Or does the Department of Lands make it up as it goes along?
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WA GOVERNMENT IGNORES KIMBERLEY ULTRA MARATHON INQUIRY RECOMMENDATIONS
The Parliamentary Inquiry report into the 2011 Kimberley Ultramarathon was released nearly three years ago in August 2012, since that time I have seen none of the recommendations made in this document that relate directly to the safety of runners in ultra running events actioned.
What happens to these Inquiry findings, does anyone one ever go back and see whether the recommendations were implemented, and if not, why not?
Let’s look at the recommendations one by one:
The Department of Sport and Recreation facilitate the development of an Adventure Activity Standard for ultramarathons in order to determine a minimum safety standard for the sport.
As the race director of an ultramarathon event in Western Australia, I have had no approach from the Department of Sport & Recreation re any such standard.
The Department of Regional Development and Lands should ensure that event organisers and government agencies responsible for sponsoring and approving events have a greater level of awareness about the requirements of section 91 licences under the Land Administration Act 1977 (WA).
I was never approached by the Department of Lands regarding the requirement of a licence, rather such advice came six months after the Inquiry report was released from the National Trust. When I tried to contact the Department of Lands in February 2013 regarding the licence, my enquiry was initially ignored. Now when I apply for a licence, a licence cannot be processed in a timely manner. Abject failure.
Local Emergency Management Committee (LEMC) processes should be reviewed to ensure that:
– Local government authorities, emergency service organisations, other government agencies and event organisers are made aware of the requirements of a LEMC, and that
– Consideration is given to extending LEMC abilities to review and advise on proposals for higher risk and adventure spoting events.
I submitted risk management documents to the LEMC in 2014 and was advised:
“As I have mentioned previously the LEMC are not the committee to endorse these type of risk management plans however as part of your liaison we have provided the general feedback below. The District Emergency Management Committee has written to Department of Regional Development and Lands to seek further clarity on their referral process when receiving such information.”
Because of this advice, I have not sought the LEMC’s involvement again.
The review of the Health Act 1911 (WA) should include the following amendments:
– enabling high risk or adventure sport activities to be subject to the events approval process currently applicable to ‘public buildings’ and;
– that a requirement be introduced for organisers of eligible events to provide medical and risk management plans to relevant authorities for assessment—prior to any event approval being completed.
As the race director of an ultramarathon event in Western Australia, I have had no approach from the Department of Health re any such approval process, nor to submit medical and risk management plans.
Department of Regional Development and Lands and Department of Environment and Conservation should consider how their respective land use approval processes can incorporate the input of Local Emergency Management Committees (LEMCs) as part of risk assessments for high risk events and adventure sport activities.
See recommendation 10.
If the Government of Western Australia had a genuine interest in the safety of competitors in ultra marathons and adventure sports, these recommendations would have been implemented. The Government has no genuine interest in safety, it is only concerned about liability.
Where to from here? The future of the Kep Ultra
I have decided to not again seek approval from Government instrumentalities for the Kep Ultra, given the significant issues I have faced with achieving such approvals for the 2015 and previous year’s events.
I intend to hand over the IP of the Kep Ultra in terms of processes and documentation to the Kep Ultra community, so the community as a whole may organise a Kep Ultra run on the Sunday of the Western Australia Day long weekend in subsequent years.
The sad part of this decision is all of the safety measurements I have put in place for Kep will not be able to be enforced in such a run, these include:
- Qualifying requirements for runners, inexperienced runners cannot compete
- Entries are restricted to around just 80 runners, lessening any impact
- Search and Rescue volunteers deployed
- Marshals at busy road crossings to stop runners when traffic approaches
- Mandatory gear requirements including reflective vests, water, headlamps etc
- First aid certified volunteers at all aid stations including the finish line
- A total of over 100 volunteers involved with managing the event
I am not interested in selling the event, or for the event to be taken over by commercial interests.
I myself will work on building the OpenUltra platform, a web application allowing groups of people wherever they are located in the world to easily facilitate an ultra run in an anonymous environment.
If you have experience in technical web application development and would like to be involved in the OpenUltra project, please contact me.
A note to Government: I am not willing to discuss this matter with individual Government Departments, only a whole of Government approach has any hope of addressing the significant issues facing ultra running events in Western Australia.
“WHATEVER HAPPENS, I WILL BE IN NORTHAM AT 7AM SUNDAY 5 JUNE 2016 TO RUN 103KM FROM NORTHAM TO MUNDARING WEIR. I WOULD WELCOME SOME COMPANY”
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