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November 2017 Issue
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New trust secures backcountry future

Geoff Spearpoint is the new trust's deputy chair. Photo: Hugh van Noorden

A volunteer project which has lead to the restoration of 60 backcountry huts and 500km of track is on firmer footing with the launch of a new trust.

The Backcountry Trust has secured $700,000 from DOC to fund further track and hut projects over the next two years.

The trust replaces the Outdoor Recreation Consortium, a collaboration between the Federated Mountain Clubs, New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and Trail Fund NZ, which represent about 130 clubs and 35,000 members or affiliates.

The consortium started as a three-year trial, providing funding and support for volunteers who wanted to restore neglected huts and received about $1.2 million from DOC over that time.

It also had an agreement with DOC to streamline the process for groups to take on management of huts and tracks.

The formation of the trust ensures the work of the consortium can continue on a permanent basis. It also opens up the possibility of funding coming from places other than DOC. “It provides a vehicle for anyone who wants to leave a legacy to the backcountry, either as a bequest or a donation,” FMC president Peter Wilson said. “Now there’s an opportunity for individuals and businesses to get involved in protecting the backcountry.”

Trust deputy chair Geoff Spearpoint said there had always been a lot of people keen to volunteer to restore backcountry facilities. The trust provided a system and funding for people to get the work done.

“The funding goes three or four times further when we do the work,” Spearpoint said.

DOC recreational advisor Ian Wightwick said partnering with the public through the consortium  had been a success.

“I’m blown away with the contribution volunteers have made to the backcountry and the passion they have brought,” Wightwick said. “It’s reignited the enthusiasm for looking after our special places.

“It’s one of the most rewarding projects we’ve worked on.”

Spearpoint said funding was available for all outdoor trail and hut projects.

“That includes groups right across the board, from horse riders, trampers, climbers, hunters – if people want to see their backcountry facilities maintained, they can get involved.”

Apply for funding for your project at www.hutsandtracks.org.nz.

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