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August 2018 Issue
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Hillary Outdoors rises to the challenge

Hillary Outdoors has been helping students rekindle a love for the environment for nearly 50 years

After nearly 50 years of helping students discover the outdoors, Hillary Outdoors continues to grow

Close to 7000 secondary school students participate in Hillary Outdoors programmes each year, nearly 5000 attend five-day and five-week onsite courses at Tongariro National Park or Great Barrier Island, and 2000 compete in adventure and multisport competitions nationwide.

The number of schools choosing to send students to Hillary Outdoors has increased over the past few years and close to 200 school groups have booked for this year. They go there to experience the outdoors in a safe, supportive but also challenging environment and to develop improved resilience, self-efficacy, leadership, social competence, environmental stewardship and a sense of purpose.

“Teachers tell us that students who participate in Hillary Outdoors programmes transfer that enthusiasm to the classroom, the sports fields and their communities,” says chief executive Graham Seatter. Early feedback from an AUT research study backs this up, with 100 per cent of students surveyed after attending Hillary Outdoors programmes reporting positive impacts and 65 per cent reporting a rekindled love for the environment. Longer programmes were associated with higher effects. An overwhelming 99 per cent of teachers or accompanying adults agreed that the Hillary Outdoors programme offered a worthwhile investment for a child’s future.

That’s good news for Hillary Outdoors, which is hoping to establish a third centre with a sustainability focus at Kinloch, near Lake Taupo. Planning is in its early stages but, pending resource consent, the organisation will be seeking sponsorship to build a new centre that serves to take Hillary Outdoors to a level where sustainability is a priority.

Hillary Outdoors was established in 1972 and with the 50th anniversary in sight, the focus has shifted to the future.

“In many ways we’re mirroring our student experience,” Seatter says. “We’re dealing with the impacts of growth, recognising our strengths, building resilience and developing resources and skills to connect us with each other and prepare for the future. We aim to increase access to, and the impact of, quality outdoor education programmes, increase capacity, and build a sustainable business that continues to provide life-changing experiences for our young people.”

Hillary Outdoors founder and new patron Sir Graeme Dingle’s original philosophy was to teach basic skills and encourage kids to work together to take up challenges in a fun and supportive environment, whereby they grow in confidence and gain insights into themselves and others.


“In this digital age, where technology has a strong grip on our young people, many of whom are dealing with problems like obesity, depression and low self-esteem, our programmes are often the breath of fresh air they need to develop and grow,” Seatter says. “We’re leading by example and look forward to the next 50 years.”

For more information about Hillary Outdoors programmes visit

This story is sponsored content provided by Hillary Outdoors