Outdoors school moving to region

A United States-based international outdoor education school that teaches around 100 overseas students in New Zealand annually is moving from Christchurch and setting up a new campus in Aniseed Valley near Richmond.

The National Outdoor Leadership School had to find a new property after a highway realignment headed straight through land they leased in Christchurch.

The international non-profit organisation has bought 13.9 hectares of land in Serpentine Valley Rd and will begin classes in September next year.

Australasian director David Summers said the school decided to move rather than trying to stay in Christchurch.

They bought the Aniseed Valley property after looking at sites around the whole South Island and planned to start developing the site within the next four months.

Nelson land development consultants Staig & Smith helped put together the resource consent application.

The school's director and family will move into an existing farmhouse, while up to six portable units are being relocated from Christchurch for instructors' accommodation.

A woolshed may be converted into a staff common room if the building proves suitable, and a new space for offices and student facilities will be erected.

Mr Summers said the Nelson region was well known for its outdoors and was the ideal location for the school's base in New Zealand. He said the school often felt "lost in the crowd" among Christchurch's other outdoor education providers but would be well received in Nelson.

"The property is fantastic," he said.

"We couldn't find anything in Christchurch that resembles that real wilderness feel."

Mr Summers said the school, which originated in Wyoming in 1965, aimed to teach university-age students leadership skills through immersion in the outdoors.

It had branches in nine other countries, accepting mainly American students into courses up to a year long.

It had been in New Zealand since 2002, running courses for foreign students throughout the South Island with activities such as tramping and kayaking.

The school will offer 10 courses lasting 77 days each year through the summer months, and have between four and 14 staff on site.

Mr Summers said several of the school's instructors already lived in Nelson, and he expected they would need to hire between three and five new support staff.

He hoped to establish a relationship with Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology where students could apply to join the staff after graduating and work towards becoming instructors.

Sport Tasman introduced an outdoor education forum in 2010 encouraging people to take part in outdoor activities. Chief executive Nigel Muir said the leadership school's values and focus "aligned perfectly" with the forum's goals.

Staig & Smith resource management consultant Jackie McNae said the Richmond site appealed to the new owners because it was near areas like the Queen Charlotte Sound and Kahurangi National Park, where they were already sending students.

Aniseed Valley was also close "but not too close" to Richmond and Nelson to allow for easy delivery of supplies.

"Their requirement was that they wanted a rural base to get a real flavour of the programme," Mrs McNae said.

"It just gave them the ambience they were looking for."

She said the site, next to the Roding River, was large enough for the school to stage outdoor activities without upsetting neighbours. Level ground would allow students to pitch tents.

Mrs McNae said the students would spend little time at the property, stopping for only a few days to organise equipment before embarking on expeditions around the South Island.

The Nelson Mail