Changing what we do so more people can discover the outdoors safely

For almost 50 years, our dedicated, experienced and skilled volunteers have been teaching people how to stay safe outdoors. However, as the world changes, we need to look at a broader range of ways of achieving our goal and work out how we can have the biggest impact.

The following information helps explain why the Mountain Safety Council needs to change what we do, how we might go about this and what this might mean for the future.


Why do we need to change what we do?

What we do now is not reaching enough people

More than a million people regularly experience New Zealand’s great outdoors and about three million get out at least once a year. This includes everything from multiday trips into remote backcountry to short bush walks close to towns and cities. While the training that our volunteers provide is excellent, it can only reach a small proportion of these people.

Last year, our volunteers trained 2,500 people in outdoor safety (not including firearms training). This is about 0.01 percent of those who experience the great outdoors annually. To help more people stay safe, and to encourage more to get into the outdoors, we need to work out how to reach more of them.

The way people experience the outdoors is changing

An increasing number of people are choosing to get into the outdoors for recreation instead of taking part in structured sports such as netball, cricket or rugby. This trend has been growing over the past few years.

People from younger generations especially are less likely to commit to a single outdoor activity that they do regularly. They are more likely to try a range of different experiences, and they also tend to take more risks than their parents or grandparents did.

We need to focus on reaching these people wherever they are and whatever they’re doing.

The way people access and absorb information has changed

People now expect to access information whenever they need it, from almost wherever they are. Younger people in particular will seek out the information they need online, and are quick to use and share anything that’s interesting or useful. We must make sure we provide the information they need in a way that works for them.

Very few volunteers are joining us each year

It's becoming harder to recruit new volunteers to deliver our traditional training courses. Younger generations are more likely to volunteer in short bursts than to commit to anything long term. Soon, we won’t have enough volunteers to do the type of work we currently do. We need to work out new ways for our volunteers to use their skills and experience.

Our funders are questioning what we do

Nearly all of our major funders (i.e. LGB, DOC, ACC, and Sport NZ) are questioning the relevance of what we currently do. They all support our goal of improving safety in the outdoors, but think we need to reach more people.

They will not increase our funding to extend our current training programmes. We need to direct the funding we get to new tasks that reach more outdoor users.


How can we reach more people?

By changing the focus of what we do, we can help more people discover the outdoors, safely.

To reach more people, we think we need to focus on three broad tasks:

  1. Collecting information on where people go and when, and what hazards they might face
  2. Letting people know how to stay safe in the outdoors, using a variety of media (including some safety training)
  3. Partnering with other organisations to identify how we can best support each other to provide the best possible safety information and education.