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Gareth Jones

Gareth profile

Raglan Rock founder and director

We provide an outdoor adventure canyoning circuit where we journey with customers, abseiling and jumping from waterfalls, challenging them but educating them along the way, why the water is important for us. People buzz out over fresh water. They flock to it. Our reviews on Trip Advisor say our course is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, and that is because of the water.

The water comes straight from the mountain and goes through a farm and wetlands. I worked on the farm years ago as a thistle grubber. They use no spray on the paddocks and the stream is all planted out. It was a hot summer so I was always looking for water to plunge into. I wanted to see where the water came out and went down the canyon. One of the main things for starting up with canyoning adventures is that the water is so clean.

I took Bruno David, a freshwater scientist from Waikato Regional Council to make sure we weren’t doing any damage. There is no point in having a repetitive tourism course if we were damaging the whenua. He passed on all this knowledge. It’s such an intricate ecosystem. There’s this spider there, the raft spider, which traps air under its armpits and it goes underwater to hunt. It even eats baby īnanga. And there are mayflies and the caddisfly, it chews up rock and organic material and makes their own houses. There’s a freshwater limpid that glows blue in the dark, and the glowworms, titiwai. We show our customers cave wētā and kōkopu. I just posted a beautiful eel on our Facebook page. We tell the story of the eel that journeys to Rarotonga to breed. If the water wasn’t clean you wouldn’t get all this aquatic life – it has to feed in a pristine ecosystem.

We take school groups for outdoor education. It is my goal that we can make it a unit standard. It’s about trying to energise and excite the youth. We want to enthuse the future generation. It’s not just adventure tourism but adventure science. We talk about the plight of whitebaiting, how there are no limits for catch. And we tell them a bit about Māori medicine, rongoā, we get them to eat plants. If it wasn’t for clean water, the native plants wouldn’t be flourishing as they are.

Water is essential for humanity. It is one of the basic pure essences of life. That’s the thing: I want to energise people about the clean water.