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Demonstrating an excellent example of cooperation between managers and staff of two of the globe’s most iconic World Heritage volcano sites, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the USA and New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park worked together to assess risk to visitors in what can be inherently dangerous places.

At the request of the Conservator, Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki Conservancy, Department of Conservation in New Zealand, the superintendent and staff at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park recently completed a peer review of a Risk Assessment for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC) in Tongariro National Park (TNP). US Geological Survey-Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge also participated.  These professional contacts were made at the VOLCANDPARK 2012 conference in Olot, Spain resulting in significant benefit to TNP. 

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing provides a very important visitor experience and its multiple closures since eruptions near it in 2012 have had a major impact on visitors, businesses, communities and the government. The purpose of the peer review was to test the risk assessment and its application to assumptions made relative to managing risk to visitors entering active volcanic areas, as well as determining whether or not management responses are consistent with international standards and best management practice. In this regard, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, is a model for other protected volcanic sites around the world. Based on real-time monitoring of volcanic activity associated with two of the world’s most active volcanoes-Kilauea and Mauna Loa- management at Hawaii Volcanoes NP is able to make informed decisions regarding visitor use and access and employee and visitor safety. 

The comparison of volcanic risk with non-volcanic risk indicates there are small levels of background volcanic risk inherent in volcanic national parks.  However given the success at Hawaii Volcanoes over decades with millions of visitors, as well as the peer review with specific recommendations for TAC, the New Zealand Minister of Conservation announced the reopening of the Crossing, scheduled for early May.