For Parents & students

Can I hire clothing and gear from Hillary Outdoors?
Yes. However if you have any of your own gear please bring it with you. A list of required clothing/equipment, and a list of what Hillary Outdoors can provide, is in the Student Information Booklet. There is no additional charge for this, and we do not need to know in advance what gear a student might require (with the exception of sleeping bags at Tongariro).

Hillary Outdoors’ gear is expensive and sometimes hard to replace. Most gear is identified by unique number and issued to individual students, some is issued to an activity group of 10 students. If a student or a group loses a piece of gear or breaks it through unreasonable carelessness then Hillary Outdoors will invoice the school or individual for the cost of replacement.

Can I accompany my child on their visit to Hillary Outdoors?
Adult helpers with a school are arranged via the school and we do not take independent bookings from parents during school weeks. If you are keen to come with your child’s school please contact the school directly.

The value of the experience is closely linked to the independence that a student gains while away from home and parents. Schools sometimes use parents as accompanying adults, or a teacher may have their own child as a student at the school. In this case we usually recommend that a parent does not accompany their child during the day for outdoor activities.

What is your policy on phones and cameras?
Cameras are permitted, phones are not. If a student’s phone is their camera, unfortunately they will not be allowed to use it.
What is your safety management system?
Take a look at our Safety Management System Chart and further information on the Safety First page of this website.
I have submitted an enquiry/contact form to you, why haven’t I heard back?
We aim to reply to you within 2 business days. If you have not heard back within that time frame, please contact us by phone to check we have received your enquiry.
My daughter/son loved their time at Hillary Outdoors, how can I ensure the centres continue to be around for future generations to enjoy?
We’d love you to support Hillary Outdoors by purchasing branded merchandise from our shop, donating or sponsoring us. You may also be interested in finding out about Tertiary courses, volunteering at Hillary Outdoors or getting involved with Events.
Can I get in touch with my son/daughter while they are staying at a Hillary Outdoors Centre?
We are able to take a message during normal business hours to be delivered to a student at an appropriate time. We prefer this to be kept to ‘vital information only’. During the day, and sometimes when the students are out on overnight, we are able to communicate to instructors via radio but messages to students would only be delivered if they were urgent.
What provisions do you have for particular food requirements, such as allergies?
Hillary Outdoors needs to receive information about dietary needs at least two weeks before arrival. The normal way to do this is via the online Medical and Consent Form which you will be given by your school. The school will then provide a summary of dietary and medical information to Hillary Outdoors. Frequently we ask that clients assist us by bringing food from home, for example gluten-free snacks or bread.

In the case of severe allergies we are able to ensure that a client’s diet is free from, for example, nuts or dairy. However our kitchens are places where nut and dairy products are commonly used, and we are unable to guarantee there will not be traces of these products, or people in the same area eating these products. We have students come to both centres with severe allergies and are happy to work with these. In the case of severe allergies we are more than happy for you to contact the Centre directly prior to your child’s visit so that we can ensure we understand all their needs.

What if a student has an accident, what is your normal procedure for attending to the accident and keeping parents informed?
Our first priority in the case of an accident is to resolve the situation and to minimise harm to all concerned, including the person who has had the accident as well as the rest of the group and any Hillary Outdoors or school staff. We will contact a student’s caregivers and school as soon as practicable, and involve them in the communication process.
What are the activities my child is likely to get up to while they are at Hillary Outdoors?
There is a list of on the Activities page, however you can also view photos of some of the activities on our Photo Galleries page.
How do you deal with a student’s fear of activities – will they be forced to do something?
We use sequenced progressions of appropriate activities, and the principle of a supportive environment, to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and gain learning from the opportunities presented to them. We do not force people to take part in an activity.

Some activities can be easily managed if an individual chooses not to participate, for example rock-climbing or abseiling. The individual can still be present and be part of the group dynamic. Some trips might require an abseil as part of the whole journey, in which case participation on that journey depends on completion of the abseil – it may be possible for this to be done with another person or the instructor.

Some people may have fears that relate to the very environment the activity occurs in – for example caving, or sea kayaking in deep water. In this case if a person chooses to opt out then they will not be with the group at all for that activity or journey – this may mean they are left back at the centre, under the supervision of a teacher or non-instructing staff.

In rare cases there may be a genuine requirement for a student to participate in something that they would rather choose to opt out of. For example if the weather, terrain or sea state changes during a journey and becomes more challenging, an individual may decide to opt out. The constraints of the situation may mean that the group and instructor will work with them to continue the journey until they are in a more comfortable psychological or physical place. Our instructors are skilled facilitators who know the area well and constantly monitor changing conditions, so this situation can normally be easily avoided.

Working with self-imposed limitations and the limitations of others brings situations that provide ample opportunities for learning and development. We aim to increase students’ resilience and skills, but do not seek risk for its own sake.

Lost property. My son/daughter left some property behind on their visit to Hillary Outdoors, how can we go about retrieving it?
When you attend Hillary Outdoors, please name or label all your clothing and equipment. Some of the items left behind are very expensive – so it is in your best interests to name your clothing!!  We recommend that students pack their own gear so they know what they have. If you do accidentally leave gear behind, contact us immediately and we will see if we can locate the item/s for you. We are able to mail lost property to a student’s home at your cost.
How do I book onto a course?
Booking is easy! Fill out the details and submit through our Contact page and we will be in touch.
Will the weather affect the programme?
Every morning our field staff have an intense safety briefing where weather is analysed. Each day’s activities are chosen to best complement the weather we are experiencing. No matter what the weather, you will be out there doing something exciting and adventurous.
What gear should I take?
Hillary Outdoors Tongariro borders Tongariro National Park so it can get quite cold, even in summer. The same goes for Hillary Outdoors Great Barrier, the water can be cold in summer too! So a good set of polypropylene thermals are needed year round. It’s a good idea to bring along 2 pairs of sandshoes as well, one for getting wet, and one for staying dry. These should both be lace up. For an extensive gear list for your course, schools should refer to the Student Booklet,  other courses should contact Hillary Outdoors directly.
What postal address should I use to send something to my son/daughter on Great Barrier Island?
Hillary Outdoors, Port Fitzroy Mail Centre, Great Barrier Island, 0991. Packages must be sent with NZ Post. Other contact details can be found on our Contact page.
Am I eligible for a scholarship?
We have scholarships available for financially disadvantaged youth. This is for students up to the age of 18. If you would like more information, please contact Hillary Outdoors directly for an application pack.
What is the Dingle Biscuit Recipe?

The Dingle Biscuit Recipe


  • 500gm Margarine
  • 6 tablespoons Golden Syrup
  • 1.5 cups Sugar


  • 2.5 cups Plain Flour
  • 2.5 cups Wholemeal Flour
  • 2 cups Rolled Oats 1 cup Coconut
  • 5 teaspoons Baking Powder


  • 1 cup of either
  • Peanuts
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Sultanas
  • Or any other dried fruit or nuts


BAKE @ 180 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes

CUT while warm, makes approximately 40 biscuits…….enjoy!!

Safety – General

What risks have been identified by Hillary Outdoors and the whole Outdoor Education sector as a result of serious incidents in the sector in recent years and how have they been mitigated within Hillary Outdoors?
Sector wide learning has identified the need to ensure significant risks are highlighted and do not get lost in a myriad of more minor details. Hillary Outdoors addresses this need by:

  • Aligning and streamlining all of our safety systems to make them more user friendly
  • Clarifying and clearly communicating safety standards across all pursuits
  • Highlighting those factors most likely to lead to serious harm
  • Providing resources to allow instructors to carry simple hazard and crisis response information in the field
  • Increasing the focus on crisis prevention and pre-planning for crisis management
  • Enhancing instructor management and support systems
  • Meeting current legislative requirements
  • Developing a strong, conservative safety culture

Refer to our overview of the Safety Management System in the Safety section of our website, as well as other answers in these FAQs for further information about how important your safety is to us.

How do we meet the Ministry of Education, EOTC Safety Guidelines?
The following document contains answers to the questions you may be asked by your Principal, or Board of Trustees about Hillary Outdoors’ safety systems in order to meet the guidelines for Education Outside of the Classroom set by the Ministry of Education. Some of the answers contain hyperlinks to sections of our safety policy.
Safety Management System
See information on the Safety First page of this website about the 3 tiers of the Safety Management System.
Incident recording procedures
Hillary Outdoors has always had robust process to record all incidents and near misses. We are constantly reviewing our operation to ensure we gather information and learn from the information we generate. All incidents are reviewed internally and any incidents which we believe are significant are reviewed by our external Safety Advisory Committee. From their response and guidance, improvements to our practice may be recommended.
Continual monitoring of safety
This is core to our practice and training at Hillary Outdoors. The SMS is a living process – things change on a regular basis and each Tier of the SMS is reviewed on a 12 monthly basis. Many AMPs are subject to minor improvements on a much more frequent cycle. Every member of staff is made aware of any change or amendment to detail through the Centre Manager, the Safety manager, the Duty Manager and/or the Daily staff meetings prior to starting work each day.

All Hillary Outdoors staff are trained and assessed in their ability to actively manage risk in a variety of situations and environments. Training occurs at induction and continues throughout their career with Hillary Outdoors. All our Instructors have relevant and current skills, first aid certificates and appropriate driving licences. Changing conditions during the day are monitored by our Duty Manager as well as by instructors in the field. Activities are cancelled, or adapted and contingency plans put into place if necessary.
We are proud of our standards of safety. If there is any aspect of the above information on which you require greater detail – please do ask us and we will be happy to provide it.

Staff selection
Instructors are selected based on their previous training and experience with an expectation that they will already have a great deal of the experience needed to acquire a range of competencies. Many staff will have completed a 2 year training course in outdoor education (often at Hillary Outdoors) and have several years of experience in the outdoor industry before joining the Hillary Outdoors team. We pride ourselves on our rigorous selection process.
Training and assessment standards
Hillary Outdoors meets training standards which comply with nationally accepted best practice standards. Our internal training (covering aspects from educational developments to activity specific training, mentoring, co-instructing and buddy observations) focuses on further developing staff expertise and skills. Our Instructors are encouraged to gain New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA) professional qualifications as they progress in their careers.
Supervision structures including ratios
Our maximum ratio is one instructor to ten students (1:10), with up to 2 accompanying adults. For some activities the number of participants under the care of an instructor  is decreased to ensure the safety of our clients. A school teacher may be considered as an additional pair of eyes, however here at Hillary Outdoors we do not factor in the teacher as a ‘group leader’ when considering our safety ratios, with the occasional exception on long programmes (two weeks or more). Each activity is considered on merit – please rest assured the safety of our clients (and staff) is paramount to our business. However, it is important that you let us know of any participant who presents as a high risk, such as a student with behavioural challenges, so that all variables can be addressed appropriately. We are always happy to discuss ratios for any higher risk activities (or students) which your school requests at the time of booking.

While Hillary Outdoors takes full responsibility for your students’ safety during activity times, we hope that teachers & supporting adults choose to participate in our activities, you do know your students best! Generally we will ask teachers to be ‘silent/cooperative supporters’ as it is important your students look to their Instructor for guidance during practical activities.

Between 5pm and 8.45am (with the exception of overnight expeditions away from the Centre), the school (Teacher in Charge) is responsible for the care of the students – and the same ratio of 1:10 is a good guideline to work to. Our staff support this by running evening activities and additional back up is available in the form of a Duty Manager. Accompanying adults will be provided with a handbook which outlines their responsibilities including what to do in an emergency. We may also ask you or your other staff member(s) to take responsibility for any students who are unable to take part in the programme on a particular day, for example due to sickness.

Support of students, Facilities, Catering, Equipment and Vehicles
Our equipment and facilities are of an excellent standard. They are inspected regularly and continually improved. Our systems are regularly checked for compliance and appropriateness.

We are proud to have been awarded AdventureMark status and as a part of this a safety audit is carried out every three years. We also have a rolling schedule of internal and external activity reviews.

All structures and critical equipment have scheduled inspections

All of our vehicles have current Warrants of Fitness (or Certificate of Fitness)

All of our buildings meet required standards and are checked regularly against our maintenance schedule

All gear and equipment used is logged and inspected regularly. We have a full time Resource Officer in charge of our outdoor equipment at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro.

Our kitchens are audited by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority

All safety equipment required for your programme is supplied by Hillary Outdoors unless otherwise discussed. Students are provided with a list of equipment and clothing they need to bring in their Student Information Booklet. In addition to this we have an extensive collection of personal clothing and equipment which we lend to students who do not have their own, or what they bring is inappropriate/inadequate.

At Hillary Outdoors Tongariro, our Youth Development Centre and two of our Chalets are wheelchair accessible. At GBI wheelchair disabilities are catered for in specifically converted, ground floor facilities. Hillary Outdoors has the capacity to provide a range of programmes for people with disabilities. Please discuss any students special needs with us when you make your booking. Frequently we encounter students whose parents have withheld information on the medical/consent form feeling their child will be discriminated against – in fact the opposite is more commonly the case! Please encourage parents to fully share information – together we can do a great job. We have excellent facilities and systems in place to work well with a wide range of students regardless of their issues – dietary, behavioural, self esteem related, etc.
It is the school’s responsibility to ensure the participant medical/consent forms have been fully completed and signed. These must be given to the instructor in charge on arrival. Any participant without a signed form will not be allowed to take part in activities. A large proportion of our incidents are the reoccurrence of pre existing injuries, often undeclared on the medical forms. Please encourage parents to share all pre existing conditions with us, however minor.

Emergency procedures
All our staff are trained to use our crisis response system and are familiar with plans for high risk sites. Our systems have been developed in association with other agencies including the police.
Please ensure your school has its own emergency procedures in place for your visit, including a 24 hour off site emergency contact number. This should be provided to Hillary Outdoors and the parents of attending students.
Please see the testimonials section of our schools website for letters of reference from several clients.

Audits by NZQA can be viewed online.

As a concession holder with DOC we are held accountable for our actions in the New Zealand wilderness.

If you would like to speak directly to an existing client for a reference, please contact our Sales Coordinator who will arrange this for you

For School Teachers & Accompanying Adults

I want to book my school group in for a programme at Hillary Outdoors, who should I contact?
You can contact our Sales Coordinator and he will able to discuss dates and availability with you.
Who can I talk to about what programme?
Your contact at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro and Great Barrier Island is the Programme Manager and they will be happy to discuss learning outcomes and activity programmes with you.
Who do I talk to about the course costs, contracts, invoices and payments?
Our Bookings Administrator will be your contact for this.
I have some students in my group who have special dietary needs (e.g. nut allergies, vegetarian, vegan, Coeliac disease etc.) and/or significant medical problems who do I contact about this?
It is important that all dietary requirements are noted when completing medical information. The Programme Manager is the best person to contact about this. Six weeks before your course starts they will send you joining documents and in this pack it will contain an essential information form. In this form are two sections, one for those who have significant dietary requirements and another section for people who have significant medical problems that could affect their ability to participate fully in the activity programme. Please enter the student’s name and their requirements and the Programme Manager will pass this information onto the instructors and the catering department, as required. This information will be treated as confidential.
What activity gear will my students need to bring to Hillary Outdoors?
Our Programme Manager will make contact with you about 6 weeks before the start of your course and will send a gear list, together with other relevant information.  If you require this list earlier please see the information contained in the relevant Student Booklet.
How much does it cost to hire activity gear at Hillary Outdoors?
Hiring activity gear is included in the cost of the programme but please remember that Hillary Outdoors is a registered charity run by a trust. We are a ‘not for profit organisation’ and as such we don’t have any money to spare. We really try hard to keep our prices as low as possible however the more Hillary Outdoors gear your students borrow, the faster it wears out and the quicker we have to replace it. The cost of purchasing extra gear is considerable and this in turn is a factor that would contribute to rising prices.

Everyone at Hillary Outdoors hopes that a student’s participation in one of our programmes is not a ‘one off experience’ but rather the start of a lifelong appreciation and respect for the outdoors. For this reason it would be good to think that all students were prepared to invest some time in getting ready for a programme at Hillary Outdoors. With this goal in mind we would encourage them to try and resource/borrow as much of their own gear for Hillary Outdoors as possible. While many students may not necessarily have access to good tramping boots or decent packs, most are usually able to borrow fleeces, or other warm clothing and sleeping bags from relatives and friends if they don’t have their own. This would reduce the wear and tear of our equipment, increase its replacement time and our costs would go down and in turn our prices would be kept as low as possible. This is a win win for everyone!

Of course if a student is unable to get certain items of gear then they can borrow it from our stores. Other than sleeping bags we do not need to know in advance what gear your students will need from us. On arrival night the Instructor in charge (IC) will issue gear department forms to the activity groups and the students tick what they need. They will collect their gear from the stores the following morning.

NB. Hillary Outdoors Tongariro does not supply or have socks or 1st layer thermal wear for hire.

I brought a group to Hillary Outdoors last year. Can I use the same documents and paperwork from a previous course?
At the end of any programme at Hillary Outdoors please either delete or archive any old paperwork. When you book another programme with us you will always be sent a fresh and up to date set of forms and paperwork. We do make changes to our documents as time goes on to meet requirements from outside agencies or to better suit our operating systems.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award – Adventurous Journey

Does doing the programme with Hillary Outdoors cover off my entire Adventurous Journey?
This programme covers the Practice Journey and Qualifying Journey, participants must do their training before they come. Try this online training tool
Where will I go on my Adventurous Journey?
We don’t know, Adventurous Journeys are student led, each group decides their journey route at the beginning of their programme.
I’ve missed the closing date to register for the gold programme, is it too late?
Yes, Gold Qualifying journeys need to be registered with the national office 6 weeks before commencement, our closing dates are based around this requirement.
Is there a minimum group size?
Yes, 4 people is the minimum. Once we have 4 registrations we will confirm the programme
Are there any programme pre requisites?
Yes, participants must do their training before they come. Try this online training tool http://www.bronzetraining.com/  Participants must also be registered with an award provider (they will have a log book etc. if they are registered)
Can I borrow gear?
Yes, we can supply fleeces, tramping packs, tents and cookers
Can I join in on an Adventurous Journey for my Residential Project?
No, but you could do a Holiday Action Challenge programme.

Tertiary Courses

What are the entry requirements to get onto the Certificate course?
We are looking for people with a passion for the outdoors. Keen to learn, you will be looking to expand your skills and then pass them on to others. You need to be 18 years old or over. There are also minimum academic entry requirements, see our Tertiary Prospectus for more information.
What are the entry requirements to get onto the Diploma course?
Have a genuine interest and enthusiasm to instruct and lead others in the outdoors. Be a minimum of 19 years of age and have completed a Level 4 Outdoor Certificate qualification, or have the following equivalent skills and experience:

  1. White-water kayaking; independent kayaking in grade 2 water
  2. Rock climbing; the ability to set anchors and lead climb with traditional (natural) placements (grade 12/severe)
  3. Mountaineering (Alpine); camping and travelling with ice axe and crampons
  4. Multi-day tramping (hiking/bush walking); on and off-track
  5. Experience of sea kayaking and caving
  6. A current first aid certificate
  7. Risk management and knowledge of group management

We would need to see a log book of this experience submitted with your application.

There are also minimum academic entry requirements, see our Tertiary Prospectus for more information.

How much does it cost?
The Certificate course is $8,900 for Domestic students and $18,900 for International students.

The Diploma course is $8,500 for Domestic students and $18,500 for International students.

The fees include the use of selected Hillary Outdoors technical gear outside of course time. You are required to have your own outdoor clothing and some equipment from day one, see our Tertiary Prospectus for more details.

Can I get funding for the Hillary Outdoors tertiary courses?
New Zealand Domestic students are able to apply for StudyLink funding for courses fees, living expenses and course related costs. Course-related costs can help buy material or services for your course. They are one of the three parts of a Student Loan. You can usually borrow up to $1,000 a year for course-related costs. Your student loan contract must be accepted before you can claim for course-related costs. Australian Domestic students need to have New Zealand residency to be eligible to apply for StudyLink funding.
I’m from Australia – do I count as a Domestic or international student?
Australian citizens and residents are treated the same as New Zealand citizens and residents and you will be charged Domestic fees.

Australian citizens or permanent resident who have not studied at tertiary level before may be eligible to get their first year free, as long as they have lived in New Zealand for three years or more. www.feesfree.govt.nz

Where can I go with these qualifications?
The Year 1 Certificate provides you the necessary skills to work in entry level Adventure Tourism/Guiding/instructing roles. The Year 2 Diploma gives you a solid grounding for a career in the outdoors. Companies actively seek our graduates as employees.

Gaining professional industry specific qualifications, through organisations such as NZOIA will improve your ability to gain employment in a range of guiding/instructing positions, both nationally and internationally – or go on to further study. You can travel; run your own business; work as an outdoor instructor.

How do these qualifications compare internationally?
The Year 1 New Zealand Certificate in Outdoor and Adventure Education (multi-skilled) Level 4 is equivalent to a Level 4 Australian Qualification, and a Level 4 European Qualification (Upper secondary general/Vocational Education Training (VET) school-leaving certificate).

The Year 2 New Zealand Diploma in Outdoor and Adventure Education (multi-skilled) Level 5 is equivalent to a Level 5 Australian Qualification, and a Level 5 European Qualification (SCHE qualification/higher professional qualification).

Where do I live during term time?
Students need to arrange their own accommodation. They often tend to live in shared rental houses (flatting) in Turangi/Tokaanu, which is a 25 minute drive from Hillary Outdoors. Students also need to provide their own transport to/from Hillary Outdoors to attend course, often car-pooling (sharing) with classmates.
What is the lifestyle like while studying?

The location is ideal for a great lifestyle. Being located in the Central North Island, near Tongariro National Park, means you will have easy access to wonderful outdoor playgrounds with many like-minded outdoor people for weekend adventures. Taupō is close enough to offer all the usual “big city” amenities.

Not only will you be living in a stunning environment, you will have easy access to kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, ice climbing, mountain biking, caving and bush right on your doorstep.

When are the holidays?
Courses run from mid-February to mid-November, spread over two semesters and divided into four terms. Year 1 Certificate students have 6 weeks holiday and Year 2 Diploma students have 5 weeks holiday during the course. Dates are subject to scheduling requirements.
Can I work during term time?
It is possible to work during term time, but requires careful planning and time management. Course delivery is generally Monday to Friday, and may involve 25-35 contact hours. You should commit to a 9.00am – 5.00pm day, but your contact hours will vary from week to week. Trips away occur throughout the year when you will be required to be away for one or more nights and these will vary depending on the module. Students will need to commit to completing personal trips outside of course time to practice and consolidate their skills/experience as there is a required minimum number of personal days to be logged for various outdoor activities.
Will I receive any work experience?
Both the Year 1 Certificate and Year 2 Diploma courses include instructional work experience here at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro. Additional work experience occurs in a variety of other outdoor adventure and guiding businesses around New Zealand.
What teaching skills will I gain?
Planning and delivering outcomes-based lessons. Facilitating individual and group development.
Will I learn any business skills?
Graduates of our courses will be able to engage with both clients and employers. Expedition planning including finances, logistics and risk management skills. Communication, presentation skills and working to clients objectives in programme design.
Can I get a job at Hillary Outdoors when I have completed the Diploma course?
Successful Year 2 Diploma graduates may have the potential for future employment at Hillary Outdoors. The application process is the same as for external applicants.
What is the career progression?
Graduates from our Tertiary courses have the world at their feet. Many work as outdoor instructors in all parts of the world, at outdoor centres, some run their own businesses either here or abroad. Others complete further study and move into teaching or working in training and development.
Why should I do the Hillary Outdoors course rather than somewhere else?
You have the opportunity to study at one of New Zealand’s leading outdoor education centres with over 40 years behind it. You will be trained by fully qualified, experienced outdoor professionals and have easy access to a wide range of amazing outdoor environments in the Central North Island – alpine, bush, caves, lakes, rivers and rocks.
What is the closing date for applications?
Courses start in mid-February, with applications accepted from July onwards. Skype interviews for all eligible candidates occur from September.
Who can I contact to find out more information?
For enquiries or for more information, contact Tui Brabyn – Tertiary Administrator

Community Sponsorship Programme – for corporates

Can I only support the number of students as listed in the sponsorship options?
No. If you would like to customise your sponsorship to suit your goals, then we would be happy to have a chat. Please contact us.
Why doesn’t the sponsorship cover the entire cost of the programme?
We’ve found that students have a greater sense of ownership when they have personally invested in the programme and therefore they pay a nominal amount.