PROJECTS / Environmental management plan - Ruapehu Express adventure race
Racing your mountain bike through a World Heritage Area sounds like a pretty amazing experience to us. So when we were approached to put together an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for a new endurance adventure race – we were in, bikes and all.
The Ruapehu Express 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 identified specific environmental and cultural conditions that race organisers would need to address in their EMP. In consultation with local iwi, DOC and Horizons Regional Council we were able to address those obligations and issues in the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). This was achieved by developing the following key objectives to guide the EMP:
No Adverse Environmental Effects
Precautionary Event Growth
Long Term Environmental Enhancement
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, the EMP could recommend some specific key actions to avoid potential effects on sensitive areas. We also identified key 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 for survey of the course to see how it faired. The course 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 developed a post event report that included an assessment against the key EMP objectives and included recommendations to consider for the next year's event. A hugely successful first event, not only for the organisers from the number of entrants, but for us to be part of ensuring that this unique and special part of New Zealand could be enjoyed without damage was a real buzz.
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