Hillary Outdoors, Aotea Great Barrier Island Centre Permanent Closure

After operating from Karaka Bay on Aotea Great Barrier Island since 2006, we have made the tough decision to permanently close our Centre on Aotea as of 11 May 2024.

The challenges of operating from an island location mean the centre is no longer financially sustainable for our Trust. Increased costs to run outdoor education programmes for the many school and community groups we service have unfortunately made pricing out of reach for our rangatahi. 

We are sad to end our long-standing relationship with our Aotea Great Barrier Island community, including Orama, iwi, and the wider island community who have worked with us for 18 years. Aotea will always be a location that holds a special place in our hearts and minds. 

Staff and client safety and well-being remain our priority. Please be assured that Hillary Outdoors remains viable and is committed to continuing to deliver incredible programmes to Aotearoa’s rangatahi long into the future. Our Tongariro Centre, the Tertiary and Events programmes remain in operation. 

The capacity of our Tongariro Centre will increase to accommodate our affected clients. We are committed to supporting and offering other opportunities to our team and our clients through this time.

We thank the many schools, groups and organisations that have supported our Aotea Great Barrier Island Centre over the years. While it is the end of an era, it is the right decision for our organisation as we look to the future and continue to work towards Hillary Outdoors being a sustainable organisation for the next 50 years. 

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini – my success is not mine alone, but it is the strength of many.


The Hillary Outdoors Gratitude Report 2021-2022 showcases the impact outdoor education has on New Zealand youth thanks to our generous donor community. Read the full report by clicking on the image below.


Hillary Outdoors is turning 50! Yes, that’s right, we have been providing outdoor education and adventure since 1972. But it’s not time to slow down or put the feet up. In fact, there are actual, scientific studies which have shown that creativity peaks in our 20s and our 50s and there are many inspirational stories about success and achievement after 50. Just look at Charles Darwin who published the Theory of Evolution at 50 years old, or Momofuku Ando who, also at 50, invented the instant noodle!

So with this milestone birthday we thought it was time we tried something new by launching our first-ever Annual Appeal. Throughout September, Hillary Outdoors will be celebrating all things outdoors, what we love, the memories we have made, and the life-changing impact our programmes have had on a generation of New Zealanders. It’s the perfect time for reflection but also a chance to look ahead, reassess goals, and figure out how we can best meet the changing needs of our community, particularly when it comes to supporting our rangatahi. Because in these uncertain times we are reminded that we need to be resilient, adaptable, and caring. But how do we develop these life skills? Independent research by Auckland University of Technology found that participating in a Hillary Outdoors programme is often a life-changing experience where students become leaders, develop a sense of belonging, learn through teamwork, and connect with community. It is these learnings that will determine how students act, make decisions throughout their lives, and deal with ‘the next COVID-19’, whatever that may be, and it is Hillary Outdoors that helps deliver these lessons.

Hillary Outdoors is a charitable trust so we rely heavily on the support and generosity of donors, funding bodies, partners and the community. We have never publicly fundraised on this scale before – this is our first ever annual appeal – but we want to keep introducing youth to the outdoors for another 50 years, empowering them to thrive and achieve.

So we need your help today, to invest in New Zealand’s tomorrow. Here’s how you can help:

  • Simply make a direct, one-off or regular donation here.
  • You can also get involved by shopping at Torpedo7 and rounding up your purchase at checkout or buying a carry bag in-store, as all proceeds go directly to Hillary Outdoors. 
  • Or sign up to Share My Super, and share your surplus superannuation with Hillary Outdoors as your chosen charity. 

Your donation will make a difference to the lives of young New Zealanders – on their behalf, thank you.

Let the birthday celebrations begin! Make sure you follow along on Facebook and Instagram to see all of the great moments from our past, the impact our programmes have had on youth, and some great yarns along the way.

Have you been a student at Hillary Outdoors? We would love to hear from Hillary Outdoors Alumni. If you have some fabulous memories of your time with us, or just want to reconnect with the Hillary Outdoors community please email marketing@hillaryoutdoors.co.nz

So while we might be turning the big 5-0 the celebration has to be in honour of outdoor education everywhere because, after all, age is just a number.