Federated Mountain Clubs’ new president says he’ll be putting the focus back on outdoor recreation.
Robin McNeill, 64, was elected president in May, receiving 73 per cent of votes in a two-way contest with 2021/22 vice-president Neil Silverwood.
He replaces Jan Finlayson, who had been president since 2019.
Invercargill-based McNeill has served a three-and-a-half-year presidential stint before, from August 2012, and has been on the FMC executive for 24 years.
He said he hadn’t intended to stand for president again but was urged to by a number of FMC-affiliated clubs.
McNeill said people feared FMC was becoming more of a conservation advocacy group than a voice for outdoor recreation.
Under his leadership, there would be “a return to our principles”.
“Trampers care about the natural environment, but they care about the environment where they go tramping.”
For example, wetlands were not something FMC should be advocating for, McNeill said.
“By definition, recreationists don’t like them,” he said, as they were muddy and difficult to traverse.
When it came to conservation, McNeill felt it was time to embrace a Māori worldview, alongside Western perspectives.
“We all want nature to be restored.”
McNeill said he brought “grey hairs of wisdom” to the presidency, including institutional knowledge and experience in advocating at a national level and dealing with conservation ministers and officials.
“I’ve seen the stunts some people pull.”
Two first-time members have joined the FMC executive for 2022/23 – Nick Cowie (Christchurch) and Stu Gray (Auckland). Allan Brent is the new vice-president.