30 May 2020
A collaboration between Rotorua Lakes Council and Rotorua Trails Trust has provided a brief respite for a group of local tourism guides facing COVID uncertainty.
The group has been redeployed from their current jobs for a few weeks to carry out maintenance for Rotorua Trails Trust. The Trust works on behalf of Rotorua Lakes Council, developing and maintaining walking, riding and horse trekking trails throughout the Rotorua region.
Positive attitudes and a love of the outdoors means this opportunity is a perfect fit for the group of guides who are all looking forward to getting back into some physical work and giving back to an industry they all love.
Each person in the group has found themselves in the same situation – making the most of the forced downtime but managing nerves about the future of tourism.
River Rats Operations Manager, Anthony Churches says it was a positive experience to be in lockdown, spending time with family and completing DIY projects, but thought a lot about the future of tourism as a whole.
“We got the wage subsidy which has been great but there’s other things that need topping up. Being in a management role, I can see a lot of money going out that hasn’t been coming in. I’ve been trying to put my hand up for any extra work so whatever money we have saved can be used for when we can start rafting again. I don’t know how long that’s going to last, but this [the work with the Trails Trust] is a helping hand. I also live close to the forest and I ride and take my kids for walks, so it’s cool to be able to give back here.”
The opportunity to work with the Trails Trust isn’t just about employment for Mountain Bike Rotorua guide Wade Garmson either, he also sees it as a great way to give back.
“This has been a pretty cool opportunity. I’ve been riding in the forest for a few years, since they first allowed mountain biking in the forest, so it’s a great way of just giving back and staying outdoors.”
Rotorua Lakes Council’s Manahautū Mahi (Group Manager, Operations) Jocelyn Mikaere says these types of opportunities are what Council will be looking for to deliver the Build Back Better economic recovery strategy.
“We are going to need partnerships with local businesses, organisations and other groups to deliver this strategy. We are going to need to be innovative and look for opportunities to build on the work that Council is already doing and see where we can extend that further into our community.
“It’s great that this work could be put together so soon after moving out of Alert Levels 3 and 4 and I know that teams across Council are looking at their programmes to see where we can offer more opportunities to those in our community feeling the brunt of COVID-19.”
The work with the Trails Trust will be ongoing for about six weeks and the team will be carrying out work on more than 200km of trails. They will be trimming vegetation and clearing tracks, maintaining and enhancing drainage in particularly boggy areas to improve the surface for all users and maintaining, and repairing stairs in the steeper areas.
The team are keen to see more collaborations like this to enable more employment for people in Rotorua, especially those in the tourism industry who love working outdoors. It is an opportunity that the Government also supports, with its recent 2020 Budget announcement that included an investment of $1.1 billion into environment related employment opportunities.
Christy Hammond, a guide for New Zealand Mountain Biking, says he is looking forward to doing something different.
“This is a bit of a diversification in work, going from all international travellers to being in the forest we all love and where we enjoy riding our bikes. This might be the new normal for New Zealand tourism – coming to Rotorua and riding bikes.”
Click here for more information about the Rotorua Trails Trust