Orienteers nearly get lost in council red tape
Orienteers are used to overcoming obstacles.
With a map and compass in hand competitors take whatever each course throws at them in their stride but for the Auckland Orienteering Club it’s not always a walk in the park.
The club is frustrated with the increasingly strict regulations imposed on their casual summer events by the Auckland Council.
Orienteers navigate on foot through unfamiliar terrain using a map to find control points.
Hundreds of people attend the Auckland Orienteering Club’s summer event series running across Auckland parks including the Auckland Domain and Cornwall Park.
Before orienteers can hold an event they must get a permit from the council.
Stakeholders, including the council’s heritage team, must then be consulted before applicants gain approval.
‘‘Getting through all of the permissions process this year has been a bit of 11th hour stuff,’’ club president and Pt Chevalier resident Guy CoryWright says.
Auckland’s orienteers have been running their summer series for about 25 years.
This is the first season they have been asked to submit the locations of each of the 20 to 30 control sites for approval for individual events.
Concerns about potential damage and disruption of heritage sites in premier parks, such as the Auckland Domain, have held up permits until just hours before events despite applications being submitted months in advance, Mr Cory-Wright says.
Education for orienteers and the council is one of the key steps in the process, he says.
A common misconception is that the sport is a running race in which hordes of people travel in the same direction creating a track. Instead competitors choose which route they take to complete the course.
‘‘Orienteers are pretty nice people. We do the sport because we appreciate the outdoors and the values that go with that,’’ Mr CoryWright says.
‘‘We’re happy to comply with the conditions but we’re looking for some commonsense reasoning and some- times it doesn’t appear to be there.’’
Council events manager David Burt says the council is reviewing its permit issuing process for highly sensitive areas.
The last minute issuing of permits is not a common practice, he says.
‘‘Officers take every opportunity to educate event organisers on the permit process to try and make any subsequent applications as straightforward as possible.’’
Mr Burt says the council is always happy to discuss opportunities to streamline future applications where they exist.
Ultimately the council’s parks, sports and recreation team is supportive of the sport’s ‘‘near zero impact’’ events, Mr Cory-Wright says.
But the club wants to know where it stands and is seeking a longer-term solution which would set parameters for such things as heritage value and safe practices, he says.
‘‘We can be flexible to council requirements and can work around ‘no-go’ areas given enough lead time before an event.’’
Rough patch: Auckland Orienteering Club president Guy Cory-Wright, left, and Mt Albert orienteer Tessa Boyd would like to see a longterm solution reached for allowing Auckland’s orienteers access to local parks.