Trampers, Climbers, Hunters and Mountain-Bikers launch Backcountry Trust
Backcountry users are extremely passionate about the huts and tracks that allow them to access New Zealand’s great outdoors – so much so that many are motivated and willing to volunteer time to help look after these places.
This active involvement, or connection to place, goes well beyond upkeep of huts and tracks in many instances. In many cases, the work on huts and tracks can be considered a form of recreation in itself. Regular users become advocates and knowledge bases for these places and often engage in volunteer biodiversity conservation activities. The work contributes to the preservation and upkeep of a valued and important part of New Zealand heritage. The places become part of their identity, their turangawaewae.
The New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium was formed in 2014 to encourage, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, greater volunteer contribution to the maintenance and enhancement of the backcountry hut, track and trail network by the wider New Zealand Outdoors Community. The results achieved assist the Department of Conservation in maintaining a world leading network of backcountry huts and tracks that provide all New Zealanders and overseas guests opportunities to access and enjoy our wild places.
The three partners are now pleased to announce their intention to form a lasting entity ‘The Backcountry Trust’ to continue this work.
The Trust will continue the collaboration between Federated Mountain Clubs, New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and Trail Fund NZ. The direct reach of these three organisations includes 130 clubs and 35,000 members or affiliates, spanning trampers, climbers, skiers, hunters, canyoners and mountain-bikers. Our model works by using the unique networks of these organisations to reach out to, and provide funding to, skilled volunteers willing to provide volunteer labour for hut, track and trail maintenance.
Over the last three years, the project has funded many innovative projects opening up opportunities for new user groups on public conservation land and challenging established thinking. These include the creation of opportunities for backcountry horse riders in the high country of the South Island, the provision of rifle-racks in many backcountry huts to encourage safe firearms practices, the repurposing of targeted tramping tracks as suitable for multi-use activity, the maintenance of purpose built mountain bike tracks and the funding and founding of multi-user community groups, such as the Kaimai Ridgeway project (an amalgamation of all users groups determined to improve recreational opportunities, and eventually natural heritage protection in the Kaimai Forest Park).
Formation of the Trust will provide a more efficient and lasting governance model to empower and facilitate this volunteer work. The Trust will seek continued funding from the Department of Conservation, as well as from private and corporate sources, and will provide an opportunity for dedicated legacy bequests to contribute to this work.
The Backcountry Trust will be formally launched at the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association Annual Conference in Christchurch on the evening of Friday 14 July.