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 only camera, they will not be allowed to use the phone function. But we would prefer separate cameras, partly because of the value of phones and low ability to frequently charge the batteries.
What is your safety management system?
Take a look at our Safety Management System Chart under the Safety heading on our Booklets, brochures and fact sheets page
We have lost the forms we were meant to fill out, where can I find replacements?
Most forms can be downloaded from our Forms page, however if you cannot find the form you require please contact us
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 through the school, who 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 activities is my child 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.

My son/daughter left some property behind on their visit to Hillary Outdoors, how can we go about retrieving it?
We are able to mail lost property to a student’s home, but this gets expensive and happens more frequently than we would like. We recommend that students pack their own gear so they know what they have, that all their personal items are carefully labelled. Contact us if you are trying to locate lost property.
How do I book onto a course?
Booking is easy! Just download the application form on the Forms page, fill out all the sections including the medical form and send it back to us. Send either via post,  or scan and email. Check out our Contact page to get our details.
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 on the Booklets, brochures and information page,  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 happens if I lose my gear?
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!! All items that end up in our lost property bin are given to charity. If you do accidentally leave gear behind, contact us immediately and we will see if we can locate the item/s for you.
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.
How the expected learning outcomes of the activities will be met?
We are an outdoor education centre, not an outdoor activity centre, so the planning process at Hillary Outdoors begins by finding out  what the Learning Objectives (LOs) are for your students These should be communicated at the time of booking. If you prefer Hillary Outdoors to plan the content of your week, then those LOs will either link to the National Curriculum standards (PE and Health, Outdoor Education) or to our Self, Place, Others, Thinking & Skills (SPOTS) themes. Many schools elect to follow Unit Standards and/or Achievement Standards – if this is the case, the primary LOs for the week are usually set by those Standards (although our SPOTS themes will still form a strong part of the outcomes). The LOs for the week constitute the planning done by all our staff to ensure we deliver the right focus for your programme. Each group has a lead instructor who will facilitate the group through all parts of the programme; ensuring learning is structured appropriately throughout the week.
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.” open=”true”]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 i/c) is responsible for the care of the students – & 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 OutdoorsMark 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 OPC 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 Schools Administrator who will arrange this for you

Where can I find out more about the Mangatepopo Tragedy?
Take a look at the information you can download below
Mangatepopo information


For School Teachers & Accompanying Adults

I want to book my school group in for a course at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro, who should I contact?
You can contact the Programme Manager or the Bookings Administrator and they will be 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 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.
Where will my group be staying when they go to Hillary Outdoors Tongariro?
There are two places where we normally accommodate students – the Youth Development Centre (YDC) at the main Centre or The Lions Lodge at Taurewa that is a 10 minute drive from the main Centre. We have to reserve the right to place your group were we judge best as we usually have other groups to try to fit in at the same time.
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?
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 students name and their issue and the Programme Manager will pass this information onto the instructors and the Catering department if necessary. This information will be treated as confidential.
What activity gear will my students need to bring to Hillary Outdoors Tongariro?
You will find an up to date gear list inside both the Hillary Outdoors student and accompanying adult booklets (you will find these on our forms page). You will also be sent another copy of the gear list when the Programme Manager makes contact with you about 6 weeks out from the start of your course.
How much does it cost to hire activity gear at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro?
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 courses 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 course 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!

Further information about gear is mentioned on page 1 of the gear department booklet which can be downloaded from the Forms page (see “gear hire powerpoint”).

It is strongly recommended that everyone attending courses at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro have a read this booklet.

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 Tongariro last year. Can I use the same documents and paperwork from a previous course?
At the end of any course at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro please either delete or archive any old paperwork. When you book another course with us you will always be sent and fresh and up to date set of forms and paperwork. We do make changes to out documents as time goes on to meet requirements from outside agencies or to better suit our operating systems.
I own my own wetsuit…should I bring it to Great Barrier Island?
Yes, if you do have your own wetsuit then please bring it along, however we do have lots of wetsuits we can loan to those who don’t have one.

Tertiary Courses

Can I get funding for the Hillary Outdoors tertiary courses?
Domestic students are able to apply for StudyLink funding for courses fees, living expenses and gear.
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.
What are the entry requirements to get onto the Diploma course?
Direct Entry Diploma students require logged skills and experience in:

  1. Whitewater kayaking;  independent kayaking in grade 2 water
  2. Rock climbing; the ability to set anchors and lead climb with traditional (natural) placements (grade 14)
  3. Mountaineering; camping and travelling with ice axe and crampons
  4. Caving: basic horizontal experience
  5. Multi day tramping: off track
  6. Basic first aid
  7. Knowledge and application of risk management theory
  8. Experience working with groups in the outdoors

Candidates with weaknesses in a couple of areas will be considered.

What are the dates of the course?
Both the Certificate and Diploma Courses start on Tuesday 9th February 2016 and finish on Friday 11th November 2016. The graduation dinner will be on Friday 11th November 2016.
When are the holidays?
Certificate students have 6 weeks holiday and Diploma students have 5 weeks holiday during the course. Dates are subject to scheduling requirements.
Can I work during term time?
It is possible work during term time. You will usually be with your tutor Tuesday-Friday from 9am to 5pm. The three-day weekends are intended for you to go out, practice skills and log experience.
How much does it cost?
The Certificate course is $6,350 for domestic students and $16,000 for international students.

The Diploma course is $7,650 for domestic students and $17,000 for international students.

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. You will be able to apply for funding from StudyLink (see above) and you will be charged Domestic fees.
Do you accept international students?
We welcome applications from International students.
Where do I live during term time?
Our students tend to live in National Park or Turangi. Please see our Tertiary Prospectus.
What is the closing date for applications?
We are current recruiting for next year. To be considered, please send your application as soon as possible.
Can I get a job at Hillary Outdoors when I have completed the Diploma course?
Hillary Outdoors recruits the top students from our Tertiary courses. 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, some run their own businesses either here or abroad. Others move into management at outdoor centres, or into training and development.
What is the expected salary as an outdoor instructor?
Outdoor instructors can expect to earn around $40k starting salary. What this doesn’t show you is the subsidised accommodation, services and food that is often available with instructing jobs and access to Prodeals for purchasing outdoor gear.
What is the lifestyle like?
Not only will you be living in a stunning environment, you will have kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, ice climbing, a climbing wall, mountain biking, caving and more bush than you will ever need right on your doorstep.
Why should I do the Hillary Outdoors course rather than somewhere else?
By studying here at Hillary Outdoors you will be trained by fully qualified, experienced professionals who are actively working with student and corporate groups. You will also be part of a very successful, working outdoor centre with 40+ years behind it.
Will I receive any work experience?
Both the Certificate and Diploma courses include work experience here at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro and Great Barrier Island campuses. Additional work experience occurs in a variety of other 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.
Where can I go with these qualifications?
You can travel; run your own business; work as an outdoor instructor, or a professional facilitator. Companies actively seek our students as employees (alpine guiding; kayak guiding; etc.).

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 of $100.