Producing guardians as well as guides
In 2015, Jackie Lee Loffley-Wilson had a ‘whoops’ moment that led to her first job as a rafting guide. The 18-year-old and her fellow NMIT classmates were paddling the Buller River when a rapid swept her overboard and she plunged into the swirling whitewater beneath.
“I put myself in what’s known as the ‘whitewater float position’. I put my nose and toes in the sky and I managed to get on the top of the rapid.”
Jackie threw her paddle down to the next boat, saw another raft edging closer and jumped into it. Then, in a feat of personal strength, Jackie ran across the raft and, in her words, ‘superman dived’ back onto her raft. “My tutor was like ‘pull over Jackie, pull over. Are you alright!?’
Jackie was shaken but unperturbed and wanted to keep going. They rejoined the group back up the river. Tim Marshall, one of Jackie's tutors, looked at her, and in a stern voice said, ‘come here’. “I was like ‘oh no, what have I done?”
Much to Jackie’s surprise, Tim offered her a job as a rafting guide, then and there. “He saw that I was able to think under pressure.”
Preparing students to manage risk is what the Level 5 Diploma in Adventure Tourism is about. From start to graduation, the environment is your classroom. The ratio is 75% field time to 25% classroom based theory - a much higher proportion than most institutes.
Courses include: sea kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, canyoning, bush tramping and more. There is a full ski programme embedded into the diploma too. It is the most comprehensive of its kind in New Zealand, encompassing more than general ski patrol, and the skiing takes place up at Porters ski field in Canterbury.
“We aim to produce guides, not just recreationalists,” insists Sam Russek. Sam is the Adventure Tourism Coordinator for NMIT and a kayak guide at Abel Tasman Kayaks.
“We want you paddling harder and rafting and tramping harder, but we want you to be able to look after people as well. You need to be able to communicate, manage risk, and help people. The service side of adventure tourism is strong.”
For Jackie, showcasing New Zealand and delivering a great experience for people is what she is here to do. After her touch and go experience on the Buller River, Jackie spent the summer working for Tim who owns Ultimate Descents.
“It was cool working with people who are still ‘teaching’ me to better myself as a guide. Tim started as my tutor and then became my boss which made it feel so easy. I see him as someone I look up to...someone I want to be like as a guide, but also have my own spark of Jackie-ness.”
NMIT has close relationships with
industry across the country. “We’ve all worked in the industry and are very involved still,” says Sam. “I’ve been a sea kayak guide and school teacher around [Nelson] and up North. We know everybody. Two of the tutors own adventure tourism businesses. Todd Jago owns Waka Abel Tasman and Toby Wild owns Moana NZ SUP. None of our students struggle to get jobs at the end of the programme.”
The programme has a 100% success rate when it comes to securing work after graduation - a figure sustained since 2013.
Jackie is at home in her current role as whitewater rafting guide for Tongariro River Rafting. She had no trouble securing the job and loves the new challenge. “The rivers are on different scales. This one is more tight and technical which has helped me so much in my guiding.”
The now 20-year-old relishes the chance to share her stories of greater Taupō region with local and international tourists. But the experience runs even deeper for Jackie who is of Ngāti Whakaue descent. She feels at one with the river and is deeply aware of the need to protect it for future generations.
“It’s very personal and close to me, being of Māori origin."
Jackie was impressed with the attention given to tikanga Māori and kaitiakitanga during her time at NMIT. “I really respect that they intertwine that into the course because everyone of us is showcasing New Zealand and people come over, not only to experience the country, but to experience the culture.
“They definitely emphasise toitū te whenua - the seven rules of ‘leave no trace’. Leave the land as you found it, have respect for the land and be thankful that this is all here. Leave it to future generations to enjoy as well.”
Learn more: nmit.ac.nz
Certificate in Adventure Tourism, Level 4 – start 5 February 2018, one year full time Diploma in Adventure Tourism, Level 5 – start 5 February 2018, two years full time (or one year to complete, following the completion of the Certificate in Adventure Tourism)
Jackie in action as a raft guide