New kid on the block

Walking for Mental Awareness Week

19/10/2017 5:31pm

By Amie Pont, Regional Field Advisor (Otago)

Thank you for what has been a very warm and well supported introduction to the role of Otago Regional Field Advisor. From the initial trip up to Wellington, full day meetings with my predecessor, Chris Arbuckle and fellow RFA’s Ange and Geoff to the many phone calls to head office. The ‘team’ never feels very far away, even though there’s hundreds of kilometres separating us. The rapid gaining of knowledge is so motivating and I am honoured to be learning the work of NZWAC. 

The outdoors has always been a huge part of our lives (of many Kiwi lives) and it is, perhaps, something I took a little bit for granted. Freedom camping (gasp) for weeks on end, dodging an attack by nesting Kārearea, dubious bunk bed mattresses, cooking damper on an open fire and smearing them in butter and jam, filling the freezer with venison, catching a trout for tea, jumping off rocks into deep blue swimming holes, taking the kids on a quick walkway during a long car ride or admiring a sunset on a summer night from a peak in the high country. How lucky are we.  

Through the initial haze of new learning, I keep coming back to the remarkable forward planning by the settlers of New Zealand. Creating a network of public access land throughout the country for future generations to access was pure genius in my eyes. It certainly takes a lot of working through but the ethos is there and, through the work of NZWAC, will continue to strengthen.

What our ancestors probably couldn’t imagine was the crazy treadmill of life balance we would end up on. Attachment to screens and digital media … cities full of us stacked high on top of each other in office blocks … filling every moment with gym workouts, schedules, alarms and deadlines. 

As people involved in the sustainability and creation of access, we all know the benefits of the outdoors and this month was a way to highlight this. In New Zealand, Mental Health Awareness Week falls in October and the theme this year was ‘Nature is Key - looking at nature to grow, support and nurture our mental health and wellbeing.’ Many events were held nationwide throughout the week and the Maniototo was not exception. On a rather chilly Sunday morning we met at the Ranfurly Railway Station to head off on down the Otago Central Rail Trail to Waipiata. This was an 8km walk and we had nearly 40 people turn up of all ages from all places. I had the pleasure of walking part of the way with a friend and her five and seven year old daughters. Once the initial chit chat was out of the way, the question came. ‘Why are we doing this again?’ What a delight to participate in a comprehensive discussion around how walking is good for keeping your brain healthy and how lucky we are to be able to get out together and keep ourselves well. That was, of course, until the last three kilometres were spent taking turns piggy backing the youngest and a fair share of motivated talk about it not being far to go. But you get my drift.

Knowing the work we’re doing it enabling access to our beautiful country and continuing a culture of the importance of the outdoors is very motivating.  

Signing off … the new kid on the block full of vigour and enthusiasm. Long may it last.

Photo: Group walking from Ranfurly to Waipiata for Mental Health Awareness week by Jan MacKenzie Photography.

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