Suky Thompson on Mt Herbert

The women that champion outdoor access

Five women will be recognised as 2022 Outdoor Access Champions, from Coromandel to Canterbury. The Commission is proud to be recognising people that have made a significant impact in accessing the outdoors across New Zealand.  

This year, communities have come together to recognise the women and their hard work in public access across the motu. There are five deserving participants of the 2022 Outdoor Access Champion Award. Including Ally Davey from Ride Coromandel, Jan Finlayson from Federated Mountain Clubs, Judy Donovan from Pukekohe Tramping Club, Suky Thompson from Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust and Josephine Elworthy from Clevedon Trails.

“These awards are a great symbol of the community support we have in New Zealand and the important contributions these women have made to public access”, says chief executive Ric Cullinane.

These women have all helped create more public access for New Zealanders across the motu which can be used for public transport or recreation. This is an important step in increasing public access in Aotearoa and generates more opportunities for people to head outside and enjoy the outdoors.

Ally Davey is a driving force behind the newly formed Coromandel Trail Collective and a Project Manager of the Ride Coromandel Bike Park. She has also helped to manage the risk of Kauri dieback in the area. She’s currently developing a 9km loop and 20km trail that will connect Colville and Waikawau along original horse and cart trails.

Jan Finlayson has been a leader in the outdoor community for years. She has served as chairperson of the Canterbury-Aoraki Conservation Board and has been on the Federated Mountain Clubs Executive since 2015. She is currently Federated Mountain Clubs president. Through her various roles, Jan fiercely defends the public’s right to access conservation land – including not only access but also the protection of wild lands. Jan takes a proactive approach and works directly with DOC’s Director General and other DOC staff, government ministers and kindred environmental NGOs.

Judy Donovan is a core member of the Pukekohe Tramping Club. In 2019 the club created the 'Pukekohe Five Summits Trail’ project to celebrate 50 years of the club and provide a connection to Pukekohe. The five summits are volcanic knolls that sit within the town. The trail is a cycling and walking route around the town connecting these summits. The route is a beautiful walk/cycle which takes in natural habitats, parks and the urban environments linked to these five summits. Judy was the key driver and facilitator for this project and set about working with us, the Franklin Local Board, Auckland Council's parks sports and recreation team, Auckland Transport (rail), Franklin Historical Society, Rotary Club of Pukekohe and her dedicated club members from the Pukekohe Tramping Club to develop and prepare the route for both the community and visitors to Pukekohe.

Suky Thompson has been the Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust Manager since 2010. The Trust was created by the Christchurch City Council to restore the Banks Peninsula to its traditional status as Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū. Under Suky’s leadership, the Board took a lead role in co-ordinating and facilitating a network of long-distance walking and cycling routes. Her imaginative, strategic, collaborative, and meticulous planning has set Banks Peninsula on the way to be a destination for walking in Aotearoa. Her work includes, publishing a walking track map for the peninsula, a printed walking guide, and local area track booklets, running the Banks Peninsula Walking Festival, helping establish Te Ara Patiki, a 3-day walk from Christchurch to Hilltop, across DOC reserves, unformed legal roads, private land, and land purchased for its strategic importance to the walkway formation.

Josephine Elworthy has worked towards a trails network in Clevedon with her Clevedon Trails Steering Group colleagues, Southeast Auckland for more than 10 years. It's been a slow burn, she and other committed community members worked with Council since 2010 to get trails included in the Structure Plan for the area, so that trails are included as land is developed. The trails are now being built piece by piece and the group is working with its local regional field advisor to ensure public access and connectivity in this rapidly changing and growing semi-rural community.

Celebration ceremonies for the Outdoor Access Awards will be held in the new year with our winners. The Commission would like to thank everyone who took the time to nominate champions in their communities who make it easier to access the outdoors.