The annual awards recognise the achievements of individuals involved in outdoor recreation, education and guiding in New Zealand.
This year the supreme ‘Tall Totara’ award was presented to former NMIT Adventure Tourism contract tutor and kayaker Jen Riley – the first woman to receive the award in 15 years.
This award is presented to an instructor who personifies excellence in outdoor leadership.
NZOIA Chair Gemma Parkin said Jen was a natural born leader and the award recognised the exceptional level of skill she demonstrates in all her pursuits, as well as her dedication to inclusive practices.
“Jen’s reputation in the outdoor sector precedes her. She is one of the few instructors in New Zealand to hold NZOIA qualifications in Kayak, Rock, Bush, Sea Kayak and Canoe disciplines. She has paddled, climbed and canoed all over the globe – from Laos and Slovenia to the Zambezi and Grand Canyon – and she continues to lead outdoor adventures with her skill, passion, energy and an unrivalled stamina.
“Jen is one of those people who knows what she wants and goes out and gets it. Colleagues describe her as an ‘inspirational role model’ to young people, women and girls, and as someone with a strong commitment to genuine inclusion of te ao Māori.
“Male recipients have dominated this award for the last 15 years, so it is great to see a talented wahine emerge to take the honours. Jen is the true embodiment of our Tall Totara award.”
NMIT Adventure Tourism student Shaun Robinson was one of the recipients of a tertiary award, presented to students who ‘have a passion for outdoor instruction and show great potential for further involvement in the industry beyond their studies’.
The awards were presented virtually this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.