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 AdventureMark safety audit certification.


Hillary Outdoors is a charitable trust registered with the charities commission. The board of trustees is led by our Chairman Mark Copeland. Our patron is our Founder, Sir Graeme Dingle. This team of devoted individuals is a critical part of ensuring that the mission and values of Hillary Outdoors remain true to the vision. It is particularly important that the philosophy is brought to life through our educational instruction.

The Board of Trustees is responsible for the ongoing financial viability and business management of the Trust. They are also responsible for appointing the Chief Executive who takes on the role of overall management of Hillary Outdoors. The annual general meeting (AGM) is held in August each year.

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.
Jono Maxwell, Tongariro Centre Manager

I have  had a long relationship with the New Zealand outdoors. From a work perspective and a lifelong personal passion.

With regards to my work life, I have been employed by the  Department of Conservation for a good chunk of time (hence the  photo of me holding a kiwi). This has given me a solid background in managing and working with teams that are directly linked to the NZ outdoors.

Creating and leading a safe workplace is a strong focus and embedding a safety culture into our work  is my priority. The move to Hillary Outdoors has been a refreshing change for me; facilitating youth alongside educational learning is a fantastic way to grow young people. I’m very  impressed by the quality of our team here at Tongariro, including how the support staff  enable our team of instructors to succeed in their work. I see my role as ‘making it happen’, as well as ensuring the business is growing and viable.

From a personal level, I’ve had a crack at most outdoor activities with varying degrees of competency. My latest (and most challenging) activity is Kite Surfing..the fact that I now have a few grey hairs may be the reason it’s proving a bit harder than usual for me to pick up.

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”

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.

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!

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.