Our Story

Who are we?

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Photo by Gareth Eyers

Hillary Outdoors (formerly The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand, commonly known as OPC) is a charitable trust that provides outdoor education primarily to young people. Hillary Outdoors opened its first centre in 1972 beside the Tongariro National Park. In 2006 a second centre opened on Great Barrier Island with a marine focus. The organisation also runs a very successful series of nationwide adventure-based events throughout the year.

Hillary Outdoors is a not-for-profit organisation run by a charitable trust. Without the generous support from our sponsors and donors we would not be able to offer what is described by a wide variety of participants as a “life-changing experience”.

In putting his name to the organisation, Sir Edmund Hillary, the great explorer and one of the first two men to conquer Mt Everest, commented that Hillary Outdoors (originally OPC) provided the best outdoor learning environment available – a truly unique combination of environment and education.

What do we do?

Sir Edmund Hillary

We use adventurous outdoor activities as a means to educate and develop young people and adults, giving them practical and life skills for their future.

We run…

  • week-long programmes for school groups called Hillary Step Programmes to help students engage with the outdoors and develop teamwork and leadership skills, and can include NCEA assessments
  • longer more in-depth programmes for schools e.g. 5-6 weeks.
  • holiday programmes for students wanting to spend their break challenging themselves and learning in the outdoors
  • skills based courses for people wanting to develop specific outdoor skills such as rock climbing or kayaking
  • year-long tertiary courses for people wanting careers in the outdoors
  • programmes for people wanting to develop teamwork and leadership, including corporate clients, sports teams, training facilitators and more. The Leadership Centre provides accommodation and facilities suitable for workshops, “away weeks”, retreats and similar
  • events such as the Get2Go Challenge and the Hillary Challenge for teams of high school students looking to compete in rigorous adventure competitions

Get in touch with us today to explore how you can be inspired by the footsteps of Sir Ed… wherever that path may take you, your students or your employees.

How did we get here?

Taita College at the first OPC course in 1972

Taita College at the first OPC course in 1972

Hillary Outdoors (then OPC) was founded in 1972 by Graeme Dingle with Sir Edmund Hillary as patron. The vision was to provide opportunities for New Zealanders, in particular youth and those disadvantaged in some way, to learn and grow through exposure to a range of adventurous activities.

Hillary Outdoors is a value-based organisation. Our goal is not simply to introduce young people to the New Zealand outdoors, but to sow the seed for change and growth through that introduction. We want people to explore their values and consider what values and behaviours are important for a healthy society: values such as perseverance, integrity and compassion. All of these values can be clearly seen in our previous patrons; Sir Edmund Hillary, Lady June Hillary, Barbara Kendall and our current patron, Dame Jenny Shipley.

The other secret to Hillary Outdoors’ educational success is the philosophy that was introduced by our founder Graeme Dingle. Dingle believed that in order for young people to thrive and achieve, they needed to be introduced to new experiences and skills in such a way that would encourage them to want to take part again. For this reason, he believed in an instructional style that offered support and caring at an individual level, giving people the skills to succeed. He also believed that the best learning experiences are FUN!

Our goal is for participants to learn more about themselves and the infinite possibilities that exist. We understand that not everyone will necessarily excel or even enjoy every outdoor experience however we do know that working as a member of a team in a variety of settings will produce many meaningful learning moments that are transferable to other areas. We also hope that many young people will be introduced to an activity that they will want to take up as an active recreational pursuit for life.