RUAPEHU EXPRESS ADVENTURE RACE
Environmental Management Plan for an event
A mountain bike race in a World Heritage Site needed a robust management plan to care for significant Māori cultural and spiritual associations and outstanding volcanic features.
Racing your mountain bike through a World Heritage Area sounds like a pretty amazing experience to us. So when we were asked to put together an Environmental Management Plan for a new endurance adventure race – we were in, bikes and all.
The Ruapehu Express adventure race takes place between Tukino Ski Field and Ohakune on land managed by the Department of Conservation, the New Zealand Defence Force and a forestry company. It is part of a landscape which has been recognised as a World Heritage Site for its significant Māori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features: Amazing but sensitive conditions that needed to be well cared for.
The DOC concession to run the event had some specific obligations for the event organisers, and Ngāti Rangi also had specific environmental and cultural conditions that race organisers would need to address. We met with local iwi, DOC and Horizons Regional Council so we could address those obligations and issues in the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). Our key objectives were:
The best site visit *ever*
We assessed the course pre-race (yep, it was a tough gig!) to identify potential effects that might arise from the event. Because we looked at the site ourselves, we could recommend some site-specific actions for avoiding potential effects on sensitive areas. We also made sure the management plan had education messages for the participants so they could protect special features of the area and better understand and appreciate their value on their next visit. This included basic things like stick to the track, take your rubbish with you, and keep off vegetation, as well as following the Check Clean Dry method to eliminate the risk of introducing freshwater pests. Education messages also included how participants could be involved in conservation and how to support local projects.
Post race assessment
550 starters took part on race day! We followed up with a post-race assessment that included interviews with competitors, iwi, and key stakeholders. We headed back out onto the track with event organisers and local iwi to see how the course faired. We were pleased to see that it was well respected and suffered little more than a few wheel tracks (which were expected). We were stoked to hear that competitors loved the track and looked forward to the next race. We wrote up a post event report that included an assessment against the key management plan objectives and made recommendations for the next event.
It was a hugely successful first event for the organisers and the entrants. We were pleased be part of ensuring that this unique and special part of New Zealand could be enjoyed without damage.