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President’s Notes – March 2020

Over the first few days of Covid-19 self-isolation as tides of pessimism have come and gone, I’ve found it reassuring to remember that while things may seem bleak for climbers today, the New Zealand Alpine Club has survived several of these world shattering events over its 130-year history.

Like many of you, my family has been in full self-isolation, supporting our son Riley who returned from Japan a week ago and as I have bounced between periods of manic wood splitting, Netflix binge watching and bike rides round and round my local area, I have come to realise just how fortunate we are to live in New Zealand. We have leadership who seem genuinely concerned about people as well as supporting business and institutions, and who have a willingness to take immediate and meaningful actions to minimise the impact of what looks set to become the greatest challenge of this generation.

Since 1891, the New Zealand Alpine Club has been part of our members’ lives as they faced earlier pandemics, world wars, financial crises and now it’s our turn to show what we are made of. As Facebook memes keep reminding us, earlier generations worked hard to face the challenges of illness and war and all we are being asked to do is wash our hands and sit on the couch; I know it’s going to be difficult for individuals who are usually so active but I’m sure we can do that, and each play our part supporting the efforts of essential and front line workers.

But I don’t want to underplay the impact for many of us; as I write my daughter is waiting for confirmation of her status having been exposed to a confirmed case in her role as a vet and of we still have some days to go before we can be sure Riley is clear after days of international travelling. I am sure each of you have your own stories and in acknowledging these, I can do no more than repeat the words of our Prime Minister – “Go home, be strong and be kind”.

Board meeting notes
As you may have expected, the focus of last week’s Board meeting was the development of a plan to deal with the next three months, while we wait for more information on which to begin longer term planning. As at today, New Zealand Alpine Club’s operation has been significantly impacted. For at least the next few weeks the Home of Mountaineering is closed, all huts are closed, mountaineering, rock climbing and bouldering trips have ceased, section events, meetings, instruction and training is on hold, and of course no-one is asking about international insurance for their upcoming expedition. And can I repeat, just in case you were thinking of self-isolating in the hills, all New Zealand Alpine Club huts are closed and must not be used during this Level 4 Alert period.

But history tells us this situation will pass, and life will return to normal (whatever that may look like then) and our role as the Board of the NZAC is to take the actions necessary to ensure the Club and its assets are protected for when that day comes. To achieve that we have immediately moved to an “essential service” operation which, for the next four weeks, will see us doing only what is necessary.

We have applied for the government wages subsidy available to businesses and institutions and asked our staff to alter their hours in partial response to the changes in workloads expected with so many of our services on hold. In return, once the wage subsidy is approved in the next few days, we will be able to offer them certainty of employment to the end of June, recognising that they are one of the Club’s key assets. Karen, Francis, Tom, Narina and Margaret are now all working remotely from their homes and using the technology available to continue as many services as possible. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch as you have always done – while appreciating the limits and unknowns they too are facing.

Over the next four weeks, the Board will be working with Karen and her team to create an interim Annual Plan and Budget for 2020-21, considering how we will operate with reduced demand for services, reduced income but with opportunities to complete some of the less critical projects we have been putting off in recent years. For example, this may be a great time to complete the computing upgrade project, which was close to finishing the roll-out of stage one, if we can find the funds to do work like this.

Membership subscriptions
We do appreciate that many of you may be facing uncertainty yourselves but we would like to make a plea for you to continue your NZAC membership when it comes up for renewal. Your subs normally make up about one-quarter of our income but, as at today, apart from any government support we can attract, they are almost our only known revenue stream for the weeks ahead. Thanks to sound business management over recent years the Club is in a reasonable financial situation, and your continued subscription support will give the Board an opportunity to minimise the short-term financial impact of Covid-19 and have the Club ready to resume services just as soon as we are able.

The Climber magazine
We had planned to have The Climber magazine on its way to you this week—it has been printed, but the final stages of packing and delivery services have been put on hold during the four weeks of Level 4 and it may be some weeks yet before you can hold a copy in your hands. We don’t want you to miss out on the excellent content in this issue, so you can now access an online, pdf version here. While you may be stuck inside, this will be a great opportunity to read what others have been up to and at least begin planning your next climb for later in the year.

Banff Film Festival
We have decided that there is no alternative but to postpone all screenings of this year’s Banff Film Festival which had been expected to run during May and June. Part of the reason was the uncertainty around the possibility of holding large, public events so close to the current Level 4 Alert, part was a reluctance to ask our staff and volunteers to keep organising and working when faced with such uncertainty, and part was a feeling that our audiences may not be ready to come in the numbers needed to make the event a financial success. And to reinforce the international seriousness of the situation, we have learned that the Banff Centre has pulled the plug on the 2020 World Tour underway in the USA, closed down 75% of their operation and suspended a large number of their staff.

There is a rumour that the World Tour has been put online but that’s not true. What the Banff Centre has done is to create an “at-home” screening of great short films which you and your bubble can watch while self-isolating . This is not the 2020 World Tour and we will be doing our best to stay in contact with the Banff Centre and hopefully bring you the real thing later this year.

In the soon to be released issue of The Climber #111 you will see a call for nominations for the election of President-Elect of the New Zealand Alpine Club, the final step in the move to the new governance structure process begun a couple of years ago. If there is more than one person nominated an election will be held in the coming months. The successful candidate will become President Elect on 1 October 2020 and will automatically move to become President on 1 October 2021, when I end my term as President and become Immediate Past President. This process will allow the incoming President a year to get up to speed and a planned and supported handover to new incoming Board. This is an important opportunity for you to identify someone who has the necessary skills to guide this incredible organisation. Everything you need to know is on our website at and we look forward to your nominations and a successful election later this year.

On behalf of the New Zealand Alpine Club Board
John Palmer, Ross Cullen, Gerald Lanning, Yvonne Pfluger, Nina Sawicki, Mike Pryjma, Jim Petersen

Hoki mai ki tō kainga, kia kaha, kia manaakitanga
Return to your home, be strong, be kind

Lindsay Smith – President
[email protected]


Photo credit:  Barney Brown, Hokaido Tourism Management.
Otago Section member and NZAC President’s son Riley Smith, before the level 4 restrictions. Riley is home from ski instructing in Niseko, Japan, and completing his 14 day’s Covid 19 self-isolation while looking forward to the coming winter in a similar role at Cardrona.  

Posted: 30/03/20

Posted By: Narina Sutherland