Our Team

Hillary Outdoors has fantastic instructors with a passion for the Outdoors. They have exceptional technical and instructional skills and at both Centres there are qualified teachers on the staff to compliment the professional outdoor industry qualifications of staff. They are inspirational and supportive individuals who are adept at helping you transfer the personal development and learning you gain during an Hillary Outdoors programme back into your everyday life.

Our team undergo regular training and mentoring.  We are proud to employ many highly qualified instructors, some of whom are also industry assessors for NZOIA.  So you can rest assured that when you choose Hillary Outdoors, you are getting the best that the industry has to offer. Hillary Outdoors has over 40 years experience in Outdoor Education and has firmly established a reputation for quality programmes. Hillary Outdoors is a member of Outdoors NZ and both centres have the OutdoorsMark safety audit certification.

Behind every Hillary Outdoors programme or event there is a talented support team who ensure your experience will be an enjoyable, safe and memorable one. This includes everyone from our Chief Executive, Centre and Programme Managers through to our Bookings Administrators and Catering team.
We have profiled a selection of our team opposite… 

Hillary Outdoors instructors


Mark Copeland, Chairman
Hillary Outdoors_Mark CopelandMark is a senior commercial lawyer based in Rotorua. He has enjoyed a life-long passion for the New Zealand outdoors, including over 30 years’ membership of local tramping clubs and the Federated Mountain Club. He has tramped, run, skied and biked in all of NZ’s National and State Forest Parks, and organised myriad of rogaine, mountain running, orienteering and recreational events to a national level. Mark has significant governance experience, both in the private and not-for-profit sectors. He is a committed advocate of outdoors-based education for young people, of all cultures. Mark’s expected outcome from his Chairmanship is that Hillary Outdoors will continue to positively change young people’s lives by providing the highest quality educational experiences.
Graham Seatter, Chief Executive
GS at 40th

Graham has been Chief Executive of Hillary Outdoors (formerly the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre, or OPC) since June 2010.

Graham is based in the Auckland Support Office and he has overall responsibility for the business including the Education Centres at Tongariro and Great Barrier Island with both Centre Managers reporting to him.  The Auckland Office specifically deals with sales and marketing, financial management and reporting, administration, communications and Great Barrier Island bookings.

Prior to joining OPC/Hillary Outdoors Graham had worked as a school teacher for fourteen years, been employed as Corporate Affairs and Sponsorship Director at Lion Nathan for nine years and been Chief Executive of New Zealand Football for three years.

He was a New Zealand track and field representative at the 1978 and 1986 Commonwealth Games and won a number of New Zealand titles and broke several New Zealand records.  He also coached on New Zealand teams at the 1996 Olympic Games, 1995, 1997 and 1999 World Championships and 1998 Commonwealth Games.  He is currently Convenor of Selectors for Athletics New Zealand.

Graham lives in Devonport with his wife Ruth-Ann and their two sons and one daughter.

Jane Heatley, Finance Manager
jane_hillary-outdoorsJane joined Hillary Outdoors in May 2016 and she is enjoying being part of the team environment. A large part of her decision to take on the role was the value she sees in the wonderful opportunity that education through adventure provides young New Zealanders.

Jane has a background in General Management and Accounting and Finance. In her leisure time, she enjoys gardening and keeps fit by running, walking and practicing karate.

Janet Prier, Programme Manager, Tongariro
Janet at the 40th_Edit

I consider my role as Programme Manager to be very similar to my role as a parent and householder only on a larger scale! My number one priority is to make sure all the students that come to the Centre are looked after as I’d like my own children to be in a similar situation. As well as keeping them safe, I need to make sure we give value for money for the parents’ hard earned cash….. hopefully you will see a positive difference when they return home! I also need to make sure we use our budget wisely to ensure a quality product for our immediate customers while still thinking about sustainability for the future. To me any Outdoor Centre is more about the people than the buildings; so keeping a happy and motivated staff team is also a key priority for me.We are located in a stunning local environment, so  I need to make sure that as an organisation we operate in a responsible way and set a good example to our clients and try and maintain a good reputation amongst our neighbours.

Gemma Parkin, Great Barrier Island Centre Manager
Gemma is new to the Great Barrier team taking on the role of Centre Manager in January 2015. She has been working in outdoor education since 2003 and enjoys being part of an industry which challenges, inspires and develops people.

Gemma visited Great Barrier in late 2014 to meet the team and check out the site. She was impressed by the enthusiasm and focus the Hillary Outdoors team had for what they were doing, and the welcoming feeling of the wider community.

“Programmes at Great Barrier aren’t just about great activities in a beautiful place, they connect to the curriculum, the environment around us, and the people around us. The whole island supports what these students are here to achieve. It’s a special place to be”

Darren Ashmore, Events Manager
Darren pic

Hi I’m Darren and I manage our events programme. Back in the 20th century I trained as a Primary/Intermediate school teacher but strangely I always felt a little claustrophobic in a small classroom with 30+ kids, so in 2002 I took up an outdoor educator role at our Tongariro Centre and suddenly my classroom became the bush, mountains, rivers and lakes of the Central Plateau. This truely is the most amazing classroom to work and learn in and for next 5 years I loved every minute of it, even the cold, wet days and nights in the bush.

At the same time I slowly worked to build up our outdoor events programme with events like the Hillary Challenge, Get2Go Challenge and NavQuest and now organising these take up most of my time. Now my job is a different kind of ‘awesome’ as I get to travel all over New Zealand facilitating opportunities for thousands of young people (and some that are not so young) to push their boundaries and work together in teams through the participation in our events. I have lost count of the number of people who have asked me if they can have my job!

Don Paterson, Training Manager
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon has re-joined our team as the Training Manager after a small 25 year break away. He was last here for 6 years in the late 80’s in the role of Chief Instructor.  He has been active in the industry for a little longer than that and is still young. Don’s position as Training Manager is to ensure there is a documented pathway for staff to develop and offer the safest, yet adventurous, delivery to meet client expectations and good industry standards. There is a comprehensive induction scheme for new staff and Don draws from his own experience and that of other senior staff to monitor and train to a very high standard.  There is plenty of encouragement and incentive for staff to gain national industry qualifications with the NZ Outdoor Instructors Association.  Don is an assessor for this organisation and therefore his knowledge and experience is carried over into demanding the best from his Hillary Outdoors team.
Tony Sargisson, Sales Coordinator

Tony joined the team at Auckland Support Office, in the role of Sales Coordinator, in 2014.

Tony comes to Hillary Outdoors after 10 years as a primary school Teacher and two years in sports administration. This role at Hillary Outdoors now allows Tony to combine knowledge of education and passion for outdoors education into one role.

Tony has also been a New Zealand athletics representative from 1993 to 2007, competing at three successive Commonwealth Games, (1998, 2002, and 2006), and the 2007 World Athletics Championships, as well as winning numerous New Zealand titles, and breaking several records. Since retiring as a competitor, Tony has turned to coaching, guiding athletes to New Zealand titles and representations.

Bridget Janse, Education Coordinator
Bridget Janse_Education Coordinator_Hillary OutdoorsWith a background in Outdoor Education and Secondary School teaching both in New Zealand and overseas, I have the dual role of Education Coordinator/Instructor, based at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro.

It is exciting to work with a dynamic and inspirational instructional team who have the knowledge, skills and experience to provide authentic and transferable outdoor learning experiences in the amazing Central North Island and Tongariro National Park.

As an accredited Education provider, Hillary Outdoors offers a variety of outdoor programmes that align with the New Zealand Curriculum. When I am not instructing, my role focuses on ensuring we deliver the quality learning outcomes our clients expect.  I liaise with the Programme Manager and schools to develop their educational outcomes as part of Education Outside the Classroom, and, where requested, Unit Standard assessment packages for senior student programmes.

I get to work with some amazingly talented young people and enjoy helping them to experience the joy and power of the outdoors. I aim to keep it real; to put value on education beyond credits, and to contribute positively to the journey of all who I come into contact with.

Having North Island rock, mountains, bush and rivers on my doorstep means I am never short of weekend adventures!

He aha te mea nui i tenei ao?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

(What is the most important thing? It is the people, the people, the people)”

Luke Middleton, Safety Manager

I’ve been working for Hillary Outdoors since 2008 and have held my current role as Safety Manager since 2013. I enjoy the job and the challenges of meeting new regulations and legislation in a large workplace environment. My family is important to me and I enjoy seeing my two young boys grow up in the outdoors, and supporting my wife in her adventure racing.

Tui Brabyn, Tongariro Office & Tertiary Course Administrator

Having first arrived at the formerly named Outdoor Pursuits Centre as a Volunteer and Catering Manager for the winter of 1990, I was intent on becoming an Outdoor Instructor/Guide.

Since that time this passion has lead me to co-own Rafting and Kayaking businesses in nearby Tokaanu, along with co-manage the Tokaanu Thermal Pools.

After 26 years on running businesses I am pleased to I have come full circle and returned to Hillary Outdoors Tongariro.  I assist management and our fantastic team of instructors in an administrative capacity to provide adventure and rich outdoor learning experiences for young people, along with greeting people at reception and on the phone.

Kerry Rollerson, Tongariro Booking Administrator
Kerry Rollerson I have worked for Hillary Outdoors since 2013 processing incoming bookings at our Tongariro Office. There are four key parts to the role: School groups, Corporate groups, Individual Holiday courses and Skills courses such as Rock Skills, Kayaking, Alpine Skills, River Rescue and River Safety. I help co-ordinate when, where, and how everyone gets to Hillary Outdoors Tongariro and send the paperwork out.

Hillary Outdoors Tongariro has a great bunch of people living and working in a wonderful environment adjacent to Tongariro National Park and I love working here.

Kitty Buchanan, Great Barrier Island Booking Administrator
kitty cropped photo

I started here at Hillary Outdoors  in the Auckland office February 2013 as the GBI Bookings Officer, my key role is to compile relevant paperwork/bookings for schools, corporate groups, individual students, holiday programmes and events such as Nav Quest, Get2Go and Hillary Challenge.  I also co-ordinate return travel to our Great Barrier Island Centre whether it be by plane or by boat.

My variety in this role is very enjoyable as is the small team I work with in the Auckland Office together with the Great Barrier Island Centre staff and Events Manager.