Nature of Things – September 2014

It’s an exciting time to be on the committee with a group of passionate, opinionated and talented people all committed to a vibrant club. Like any institution, the club needs to change and evolve to stay healthy and resist irrelevance. The advantage of a diverse committee is that we can have some strong debates and fine-tune ideas before we present them for your feedback. You’ve already heard about the changes we are proposing for membership categories – after last week’s largely positive discussion at club night, we will now look to schedule an EGM (extraordinary general meeting). If you have views on this that you haven’t fed into the mix and would like us to consider, please get them to me before our next committee meeting on 8 October.

Another thing we canvassed at club night last week was the two-trip joining rule. We know that some people see it as a disincentive and barrier to membership, while others see it as a way of maintaining club culture. We all know that our society’s approach to recreation, and to membership organisations in general, has changed since our current policies were developed. Some of our sister clubs (e.g. the Tararua Tramping Club) have changed their joining rules in recent years. We’re really interested to hear your thoughts about this.

At club night, it was really helpful to hear a range of views on joining requirements, both from new and non-members, and from members. It’s been interesting to hear that to some people, the requirement to seek signatures of “nominators” is as big a barrier as having to do two trips, and to also hear that dropping the two-trip requirement would be appealing to people starting out who might want to focus on daywalking first. We also heard that people feel strongly about tramping and mountaineering being the object of our club, and that this needs to be maintained and protected. There’s obviously a diversity of views on this issue, and we are keen to hear more. Please make a comment here, or email me at . We will be analysing the feedback we’ve collected at our next committee meeting, as we consider potential next steps.

Last week I also attended a hui run by DOC on the Tararua hut bookings issue I mentioned last month. DOC was in listening mode at the hui, and there were about 15 people from different clubs and groups present. It was an interesting experience, and reminded me again of the ways in which our club stands out from others. But we can’t take our relative youth and energy for granted, and we can only maintain it by continuing to bring new, keen proto-trampers (and proto-leaders!) through the door. When I joined the tramping club, I felt pretty average in terms of age. Nearly ten years later, I still feel pretty average and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

A number of views were expressed at the hui, mostly along the lines I set out in last month’s column. DOC undertook to reflect on these views and come back to clubs before making any decisions; in the meantime, there is no booking system in place. DOC were clear that they are focused on the Jumbo/Holdsworth loop being an introductory tramping experience. While we can all agree that increasing the number of people who tramp is a good idea, there are obviously differing views about the nature of that experience, particularly in terms of hut culture. Experienced trampers can have a strong reaction to the commodification of huts, with bookings making them more akin to hostels. The culture of making room (and cups of tea) for newcomers to the hut, not monopolising hut facilities and basic cleaning/wood gathering etiquette does not sit easily with online booking systems. DOC heard these concerns. But they also have to balance demand for certainty from school groups and perhaps even a changing, more individualised Kiwi culture that has less tolerance for discomfort and uncertainty. I will keep you updated on progress.

Just an update on the Ruahine huts booking issues: DOC has decided not to proceed with making Rangiwahia or Sunrise hut bookable at the moment. They will be considering whether to establish a system in future, and if so what form this should take, in consultation with the Ruahine User Group. WTMC does not have a rep on this group but I will communicate our interest in the issue.

I am glad to report that I actually managed to go tramping twice in the past month. It’s great to go on club trips again after such a long and unintended break, and to appreciate anew both the bush and the people we bring together.

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