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Inspirational outdoorspeople celebrated at NZOIA awards

8 October 2018

The man who led an expedition to discover New Zealand’s deepest cave, an educator who has spent decades training aspiring instructors, and a young instructor with a passion for storytelling were among nine inspiring Kiwis recognised for excellence in outdoor leadership on Saturday.

The awards were presented at the annual New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA) Excellence Awards dinner at Tihoi Venture School in Mangakino, on the western side of Lake Taupo.

The prestigious ‘Tall Totara’ award for an instructor who personifies excellence in outdoor leadership was presented to Kieran McKay from Waitomo in recognition of his subterranean exploits and dedication to passing on his knowledge and love of adventure.

Mr Mckay holds NZOIA qualifications in Alpine, Rock, Bush and Cave environments and was named one of Red Bull’s explorers of the century in 2013. He led a team that discovered the 1,200m deep Nettlebed-Stormy Pot system on Mt Arthur, near Nelson, and has explored more than 120km of uncharted cave systems in his career.

He is also involved in search and rescue and in June this year helped to lead a rescue effort that successfully extracted a group of Golden Bay High School students who had became trapped in the Nettlebed Cave when one of their instructors became injured.

NZOIA Chair Gillian Wratt said Kieran had dedicated his life to adventure.

“He’s scaled mountains and led teams deep underground to discover some of New Zealand’s last truly unexplored places. But what is just as impressive is his drive to give back to the industry he loves. Through outdoor instruction, speaking engagements and informing the development of courses and safety management systems, he is helping to inspire the next generation of adventurous Kiwis.”

Another highlight of the awards was the presentation of a rare NZOIA Life Membership award to Dunedin’s Andy Thompson. It’s been five years since the last Life Membership award was presented, and Ms Wratt said the decision to award it was not taken lightly.

Mr Thompson has spent more than 30 years in outdoor instruction and education, including 17 years as Programme Coordinator for Otago Polytech’s Diploma in Outdoor Leadership in Management. He served on NZOIA’s Board, including two years as Chair, and has worked as an Antarctic Field Trainer, Army Adventure Training instructor, Mt Cook Search and Rescue team member, and World Challenge Expedition Leader.

“Andy has made a tremendous contribution to the sector and earned the respect of his peers for his humour, hard work and determination to make the industry better. Over the years he has mentored and inspired hundreds of instructors, many of whom have gone on to play leadership roles in their own right,” she said.

This year’s ‘Emerging Instructor’ award was presented to Mark Parfitt, who is in his second year as outdoor instructor in the outdoor education department of Nayland College, in Nelson. Ms Wratt said the award recognised Mr Parfitt’s natural ability to enthuse and inspire young people about the outdoors and outdoor pursuits.

“Mark’s ability to engage students in outdoor education has become almost legendary at Nayland College. His lessons are delivered with such passion that they are fondly referred to as ‘story time with Mark’ by many of his students. This ability to connect so effectively with people of all backgrounds, coupled with his exceptional technical expertise, epitomises some of the most important qualities outdoor instructors should aspire to.”

A Tertiary Award for guides and instructors who have shown outstanding potential during their studies was presented to six recipients. These were Cait Disberry of Whitireia Polytech, Georgia Orme of Ara Institute of Canterbury, Janelle van der Westhuizen of Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, Jessica Russell of Hillary Outdoors, Sam McComb of Otago Polytech and Kate Funnell of Tai Poutini Polytech.

The NZOIA Excellence Awards were presented at an awards dinner during the four-day NZOIA National Training Symposium, held in the Taupo region. The symposium was attended by 120 outdoor guides and instructors. It featured workshops exploring a range of professional development opportunities and revalidation for guides, instructors and assessors.


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