Expanding Our Horizons: Introducing Hillary Outdoors Coromandel

Yesterday was a momentous occasion for Hillary Outdoors as we proudly announced the acquisition of our new centre on the stunning Coromandel. This expansion is not just about growing our footprint; it’s about deepening our commitment to providing exceptional outdoor education opportunities for rangatahi across Aotearoa.

With over 50 years of experience in delivering high-impact outdoor education programmes, Hillary Outdoors, then OPC, has a place in the hearts of generations of New Zealanders. Our journey began with our iconic Tongariro Centre. Now, we are thrilled to extend our reach to the Coromandel, a region rich with unique marine and conservation environments.

Hillary Outdoors Coromandel will serve as our Marine and Conservation Centre, offering unparalleled experiences in the northern Coromandel’s bush, coastal, and marine environments. This acquisition allows us to provide more diverse learning opportunities and empower more youth to benefit from the life-changing experiences our programmes facilitate.

What Hillary Outdoors Coromandel Offers

Experiential Learning in Unique Environments: Our Coromandel Centre will immerse students in hands-on learning experiences that cover a wide range of marine and land-based activities and promote a deeper connection to nature. This environment will provide continuous opportunities for youth development through engaging journeys and expeditions.

Commitment to Environmental Stewardship: Coromandel has a unique biodiversity that we are committed to protecting and preserving. We believe in the power of collaboration and look forward to supporting the incredible community-led conservation efforts underway in the region.

Fit-For-Purpose Facilities: Hillary Outdoors Coromandel Centre will feature facilities that will be converted to support an array of educational activities. With experienced instructors and a well-rounded curriculum, we aim to uphold the high standards of excellence that have defined us for decades.

Join us on This Journey

We are excited to welcome our first group of students in January 2025. Until then, our team will be hard at work converting the site to be fit-for-purpose and getting the highest outdoor safety accreditation for our programmes, maximising the educational potential of this incredible location. We are currently working through our booking process with our clients, and look forward to forging new partnerships with schools and communities from Coromandel, Auckland, and wider Aotearoa.

As we embark on this new chapter, we invite you to join us in celebrating this expansion of Hillary Outdoors, which will ultimately achieve our goal of providing transformative experiences to more than 10,000 rangatahi each year through outdoor education and equip them to lead brighter futures. 

Make sure to stay tuned to our social media channels and website as we share the journey and progress of opening Hillary Outdoors Coromandel.

Thank you for your continued support and belief in our purpose. Here’s to a new chapter!

Celebrating Youth Week: Tertiary Students’ Dive into Hauora Retreat 

Last week, as part of Youth Week NZ celebrations, our tertiary students embarked on a new initiative: a four-day Hauora Retreat designed to promote wellness and foster connections among our students. 

During the retreat, our students left their phones and laptops at home and immersed themselves in activities that nurture holistic well-being. We don’t just talk about hauora in a classroom—we live, eat, and breathe it.  

Each day began with an AM routine that included yoga, mindfulness training, and journaling. They practised healthy eating, engaged in daily fitness sessions, and committed to a four- to eight-week programme where they set personal hauora goals. Some goals included maintaining a morning routine, following a paleo or vegetarian diet several times a week, participating in cold water immersion, or targeted fitness training. 

Engaging in diverse activities from yoga to HIIT sessions, mindful journaling to exploring the Mental Health Foundation’s 5 Ways to Well-being model, every day of the retreat was dedicated to exploring the pillars of hauora. 

One unique aspect of the retreat was the Diploma student-led presentations. Our students shared their knowledge on various topics, ranging from the Te Whare Tapa Whā model to breathwork techniques, nourishing nutrition, and habits that promote overall well-being. During these presentations, students empowered one another to prioritize self-care and mental health. 

Students were also challenged to eat a plant-based diet during the retreat and eliminate any foods that were highly processed or high in sugars—the rule of thumb was, if it wasn’t around 100 years ago, then leave it out. Cooking in groups helped them discover new recipes and ways of cooking, strengthening bonds that only sitting down together and sharing kai can create. 

The motivation behind this retreat was to equip our students with essential tools to navigate the complexities of modern life, especially as anxiety and mental health challenges rise among youth. By openly discussing wellness and providing practical tools we aim to empower them to prioritise their mental and emotional well-being. 

It was inspiring to witness the personal growth and transformation that unfolded during the four days, and to champion the well-being of our rangatahi! 

Thank you Ara Taiohi for providing a grant in support of the Hauora Retreat.

Event Season in Full Swing 

2023 Hillary Challenge Final Winners, New Plymouth Girls/Boys High School.

The shorter and colder days have signalled the start of our events season, and Darren, our Events Manager, couldn’t be more eager to bounce out of bed and set up a series of testing challenges he has spent all summer imagining. 

Our events kicked off with a bang, with the South and then the North Island playing hosts to two fantastic Hillary Challenge regional events.    

Close to 300 rangatahi were tested, trialled and pushed to limits they didn’t know they could reach, as they competed to win a place at the highly anticipated Hillary Challenge Final, set to take place over a week during the end of Term 3. 

Our 2024 Finalists

Congratulations to Cashmere High (Christchurch); Motueka High (Motueka – Tasman); Middleton Grange (Christchurch); MacKenzie College (Fairlie – South Canterbury); St Andrews College (Christchurch); Francis Douglas/Sacred Heart (New Plymouth); John Paul College (Rotorua); Westlake Girls/Boys High (Auckland); Rotorua Lake High (Rotorua)  teams for your outstanding performances and securing your place in the Hillary Challenge Final, where they will be joined by New Plymouth Girls/Boys High; Wakatipu High and Whakatane High who all have won automatic entry to the 2024 Hillary Challenge Final and finishing in the top three spots at the 2023 Hillary Challenge Final – we cannot wait to welcome you to Tongariro – we are sure Darren has some more exhilarating activities in-store that will test your teamwork! 

Meanwhile, our Torpedo7 Get2Go regionals are just around the corner, running from late July to mid-September. In these events, teams compete in various outdoor challenges, fostering skills like leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and resilience. The winning team from each region’s Mixed Open category will earn a spot in the prestigious Torpedo7 Get2Go Final, to be held later in the year. 

Participating in the Hillary Challenge and Torpedo7 Get2Go offers invaluable benefits to rangatahi. These events provide opportunities to: 

  • Develop leadership and teamwork skills in challenging outdoor environments 
  • Build resilience and problem-solving abilities 
  • Experience personal growth and confidence through adventure 
  • Forge lasting friendships and connections with peers from across the country 

We cannot wait to witness the growth and success of all participants in these upcoming events. Stay tuned for more updates and join us in celebrating the achievements of our inspiring rangatahi! 

Hillary Outdoors’ All Staff Training: A Refreshing Retreat 

During January, 40 Hillary Outdoors staff members spent a rejuvenating five days together as the team gathered in Tongariro, where they immersed themselves in a blend of safety training, skill enhancement, mental health and well-being training, strategic planning, and much-needed downtime to foster connection. This time also allowed our Cultural Advisory Committee to meet and build on their research. 

Our instructors delved into refreshing their outdoor skills, ensuring they’re equipped to deliver top-notch experiences for our clients, from practising rescues to honing safety protocols and their expertise. Instructors also took the time to review Unit Standards and had a refresher on how they assess these. 

Meanwhile, support staff gathered and undertook training on our systems and processes to ensure that, as an organisation, we are operating efficiently and effectively. 

Recognising the importance of mental health and well-being, we dedicated time to focus on supporting the well-being of our clients – equipped with valuable insights and strategies to provide a nurturing environment where everyone can thrive.  

The above session aligned with a Hauora workshop where we deepened our understanding of this Māori philosophy, encompassing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects to help us promote a balanced lifestyle for our clients and ourselves. 

Our Cultural Advisory Committee attended a two-day wānanga, hosted at Otūkou Marae by Ngāti Hikairo and at our Tongariro Centre. The Committee dedicated time to reflecting on responses from our accountability-based research to better understand how rangatahi Māori can successfully participate as Māori at Hillary Outdoors. The responses informed our draft cultural strategy, and by the end of the wānanga, we had co-developed three strategic pou with success measures. You can read more about our journey in our blog. It’s not often that we are all gathered in one location, so it was great to collaborate with all staff to map out our future direction to ensure that we continue to innovate and adapt whilst staying true to our core values to empower rangatahi through adventure. 

Of course, amidst the enriching sessions, we also had moments to relax and get out and experience the outdoors. Our instructors led our all-staff canoe and kayak rescue trip, which saw some of us stay drier than others! These special moments helped foster bonds and strengthened our team spirit. 

At Hillary Outdoors, we’re not just an organisation – we’re a family united by our passion for outdoor education and youth development. Training days like this sharpen our skills and reaffirm our commitment to creating safe transformative experiences for rangatahi well into the future. 

Exciting Kick-off for 2024 Tertiary Programmes at Hillary Outdoors! 

It’s that time of the year again – Hillary Outdoors is buzzing with excitement as our 2024 tertiary programmes have finally kicked off – the energy around here is electric! 

Here at Hillary Outdoors, we’re all about learning safety through hands-on learning and immersive experiences – from our indoor classrooms to our outdoor laboratories – there is never a dull moment. 

We’ve welcomed both Diploma and Certificate students for what promises to be an epic journey of learning and adventure, and these guys wasted no time diving headfirst into the action! 

Our Certificate students have been absolute rockstars – after spending time in the classroom assessing and learning to manage risk and correctly use equipment, they put their newly acquired skills to the test under the watchful eyes of our experienced outdoor instructors. On just their second day rock climbing, they were already scaling cliffs and smashing out leads like pros at Whakapapa.  It’s been incredible to see their passion and determination fuelling their adventures from the get-go.  

Meanwhile, our Diploma students have been making waves – quite literally! Testing out their kayaking skills and camping out overnight – soaking in every ounce of adventure as they work towards the New Zealand Diploma in Outdoor and Adventure Education (multi-skilled) Level 5. 

The Diploma will see Graduates obtain the necessary skills to instruct and lead groups in the outdoors so they can, in turn, be our outdoor instructors of tomorrow. Graduates need to show excellent communication and interpersonal skills as well as demonstrate a high level of risk management during these activities, whilst also developing their existing technical skills. 

Putting these skills to use, in real life situations, develops students, so they can form an accurate self-assessment of their skills and abilities in a variety of conditions – think of it as Applied Kayak Physics where we test out Newton’s third law – for every action in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  It is only through the practice and testing of these skills in the outdoors, our labs, that we can prove or disprove the hypothesis! 

So, picture this: they start the week by getting their kayak gear prepped and fitted before hitting the pool to perfect their rolls, then they take on the Tongariro red hut run to gauge their paddling prowess. But that’s just the warm-up! They set their sights on Mohaka River, conquering new stretches by day and camping under the stars by night – truly epic stuff! 

And amidst all the action, they still managed to put their skills to the test at the opening of our brand-spanking-new, state-of-the-art Tūpiki Trust climbing facility followed by a welcome BBQ hosted by our staff – where staff vs tertiary volleyball antics flowed as freely as the BBQ sauce, creating bonds that’ll last a lifetime. 

Our programmes develop the next generation of inspirational instructors, advanced adventure guides, safety experts, and skilled recreationists. Our graduates become sought-after leaders. The type of people you want on your team who make a difference! 

So, here’s to an action-packed start to 2024 – and trust us, the adventures have only just begun! 

Hillary Outdoors Instructors stand out from the crowd 

We love to celebrate success, and it has been a big week for two Hillary Outdoors staff members who have achieved success at the NZOIA (New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association) Excellence Awards 2023.  

Michaella Wills (Miki) and Matt Hanson were honoured with the Emerging Instructor Award, an award that celebrates their exceptional potential, commitment to growth, and showcases standout instructors within their field. 

The NZOIA Excellence Awards recognise the highest achievements of individuals involved in outdoor recreation, education and guiding in New Zealand.  There are five awards: Emerging Instructor, Emerging Guide, Wahine Toa, Tall Tōtara, and Life Member.       

Miki took out the Emerging Instructor award thanks to her continuous growth, tireless commitment, and thirst for knowledge – she is always willing to throw 110% at everything she does – an inspiring and fantastic role model, particularly for female students.   

Inclusive of everyone regardless of background, passionate and embracing of Mātauranga Māori, Miki incorporates this into her teaching.  To say students love her would be a gross understatement – she already has, and is having, an impact on the future of outdoor education, instruction and the people in it.   

Matt is also a winner of the Emerging Instructor Award thanks to his incredible all-round skill set, not only in hard skills but also in his facilitation, group management, and ability to push each group just enough to get the most out of them.  

Matt strikes that balance between delivering just enough adventure to elicit change whilst ensuring his students have a memorable and positive experience.  

Super enthusiastic, thoughtful, analytical, smart and driven, Matt’s baseline of experience to inform his judgment is impressive in how he operates.  

Topping it off, Matt is always humble in his achievements, always the first to volunteer to help with SAR callouts regardless of personal plans and is always looking for opportunities to learn and grow.  Matt is an excellent example of the future of the outdoors industry in Aotearoa. 

Miki and Matt, this award is a testament to your unwavering passion, remarkable instructional abilities and commitment to outdoor education – you are both such worthy recipients.  We cannot wait to see the heights you will conquer and the lives you will inspire in the years ahead. 

Finalists for the Torpedo7 Get2Go Final are confirmed

We now have our 12 finalists who have successfully made their way through the exhilarating Torpedo7 Get2Go North and South Island challenges to secure a spot in the illustrious final event, set to take place in the stunning Tongariro National Park this December.

After a gruelling series showcasing exceptional outdoor skills, these finalists are gearing up for the ultimate adventure experience. Who will you be cheering on?

Northland – Whangarei Girls/Boys High
Auckland North/West – Westlake Girls Boys High
Auckland Central/South – St Kentigern College
Waikato – Waikato Dio/St Pauls Collegiate
Bay of Plenty – John Paul College
Hawkes Bay – Taradale High
Taranaki/Whanganui – New Plymouth Girls/Boys High
Wellington/Wairarapa/Manawatu – Palmerston North Girls/Boys High
Nelson/Tasman – Waimea College
Canterbury/Northern Aoraki – Middleton Grange
Otago/Southland – Fiordland College
Central Otago/Southland – Wakatipu High

Alfriston College embarks on programme first

Thirty students from Alfriston College have embarked on a programme first for Hillary Outdoors, a multi-year youth development programme that aims to see longer-term change around personal development (self-identity, leadership and impacting others etc.), increased and self-directed interest in outdoor activity and a more focused pathway for school leavers.

The three-year programme that commenced in December 2022 targeted Year 10 students and will see the same 30 students return to Hillary Outdoors in Years 11 (2023) and 12 (2024) to participate in a 5-day school group programme that is adapted to meet the needs and learning outcomes of the group.

The pilot programme developed alongside Alfriston College in South Auckland, whose students attend Hillary Outdoors Aotea, Great Barrier Island, has been funded thanks to a Recreation Aotearoa grant to connect rangatahi Māori with their culture and to support their access to outdoor education.

Cultural relevance has been woven into the programme at every opportunity, aligning with several initiatives at the school, including Te Reo Māori, Whakairo – Carving, Te Ao Haka, and Tikanga learning programmes, alongside Kaitiakitanga of our environments.

Alfriston experienced our Island Centre, Aotea Great Barrier, in December 2022, where the focus was on their personal development and self-growth as they move into their senior schooling years. This year, Alfriston will visit our Tongariro Centre and complete a Through My Lens programme where they can focus on sharing their personal stories through media, continuing their personal development as young adults, starting to solidify who they are going to be as an adult and what values they will carry through life.

We are excited to see the growth in students at the end of the three-year programme and believe that this programme has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of the students attending. We cannot wait to share those results with you and see the positive impact that this programme will have in the future.

Hillary Challenge Finalists are confirmed

In what is billed as the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure challenge for Year 11-13 students in New Zealand, we have found our Hillary Challenge Finalists after two qualifying regional events earlier this year.

Twenty-three schools from the length and breadth of the North Island raced against each other in Rotorua, showing fierce skills and determination, with Francis Douglas/Sacred Heart (Taranaki) narrowly edging out Whakatane High School for the top spot.

Two weeks later, 23 South Island teams competed in wet and muddy conditions, with reigning Hillary Outdoors Champions Motueka High (Tasman) taking first place.

Eight schools have successfully earned the right to compete in the National Final, to be held in October. They will be joined by the top three teams from the 2022 Hillay Challenge Final, who earn automatic entry into the Final based on their placings last year.

Can anyone stop Motueka High from taking out the Hillary Challenge again in 2023? Only time will tell.

The full list of finalists is below:

Motueka High (Tasman) – 1st 2022 – automatic entry
John Paul College (Bay of Plenty) 2nd 2022 automatic entry
New Plymouth Girls/Boys (Taranaki) 3rd 2022 automatic entry
Francis Douglas/Sacred Heart (Taranaki)
Whakatane High (Bay of Plenty)
Onslow College (Wellington)
Trident High (Bay of Plenty)
Wakatipu High (Central Otago)
Middleton Grange (Canterbury)
Craighead Diocesan/Timaru Boys (South Canterbury)
Rangi Ruru/Christchurch Boys (Canterbury)

Tūpiki Trust helping us reach new heights

Thanks to generous funding from NZAC Tūpiki Trust, Hillary Outdoors Tertiary students will scale new heights. $250,539 in co-funds has been secured to complete stage three of an all-weather indoor climbing wall for the Tongariro Centre.

This project has been a long time in the making as we embarked on a three-phase project in 2020 to create a world-class climbing training facility for students at a total cost of $773,289.  

Benefits for Tertiary students

As we begin the final stage of the project, the funding from Tūpiki Trust enables the creation of a dedicated classroom next to the climbing wall so that students can apply theory immediately in reality.  

The funding will also ensure we are equipped with the latest safety equipment to ensure our students can climb with confidence and peace of mind. 

As New Zealand’s leading provider of Tertiary Outdoor Education, we deliver the New Zealand Certificate (Level 4) and the New Zealand Diploma (Level 5) in Outdoor and Adventure Education from our Tongariro Centre, construction of this high-spec climbing wall will allow for highly technical lessons as well as the ability to learn alongside instructors. 

The climbing facility will teach all facets of skill associated with climbing, from movement skills to technical, including belaying, anchors, abseiling and multi-pitch systems.

Being based in an Alpine environment has many benefits, namely being able to practice what is learned in the outdoors almost immediately however, we are sometimes interrupted by weather, which can disrupt schedules and the momentum created in the classroom. 

This new indoor facility will ensure that the 300 hours of training dedicated to rock and alpine training (Certificate and Diploma) always go ahead, no matter the weather.

We are incredibly grateful to the Tūpiki Trust for their support and generosity in making this project possible. As we progress with construction, we look forward to sharing progress updates with you all. Stay tuned for more updates!