But first a (very) brief history of our company, River Valley.
River Valley is a family-run tourism business that started in 1982 at the back of the farm, on the banks of the Rangitikei River, Pukeokahu district, east of Taihape. Four generations presently call this home, with two of those generations actively working in the business.
The original reason for the company's creation was the great white water rafting to be had on the Rangitikei River. While several different sections are rafted, the Grade 5 section has become the most well-known. In fact, international energy drink manufacturer Red Bull names it as one of the world's Top 8 rafting trips.
A variety of river trips are now offered ranging in duration from half-day to 5 days, and in difficulty from Grade 2 (easy) to Grade 5.
Horse trekking was another activity that was added early on, with treks from half-day to 8 days now being offered.
Over the years, River Valley has evolved. In the late 1980s, the first riverside building took place. This building was in the form of a Lodge with an ample communal lounge/dining space and simple accommodation. Over the ensuing years, further accommodation (much of it ensuited) has been added, as well as a sauna and spa area, and a conference room. The complex can now sleep, 80 people.
Much of this journey has involved our own growth as owners and guides.
While I think the initial motivation in setting up River Valley may have been to share this magical spot with others, it was the thrills of white water rafting that drove us. However, over the years, and decades, while we still love the thrill of challenging rapids, it is the interaction with nature that has become more important.
When you spend so much of your life on a river, you see changes, not all of them good. You realise that it is your role to embrace kaitiakitanga or guardianship of the natural environment you live and work within.
This embrace of nature takes many forms. For ourselves, it has involved working with others in the protection of native species via a trapping program targeting rats and stoats. It has involved lobbying for water quality and river protection. In the last few years, as we have become increasingly concerned about broader environmental issues, we have developed a large organic vegetable garden that delivers quality produce to the Lodge kitchen. We have also undertaken considerable tree planting.
This regeneration and protection of the natural landscape now drives much of what we do.
Like many tourism businesses who relied heavily on international tourists, we have been severely impacted by the pandemic. While this makes for difficult times, it is also a chance for a reset. We are embracing that opportunity, and reimagining how River Valley should look in the future.
This reset will most definitely place River Valley even more in the "Eco" space. While adventure-type pursuits will always be an important part of what we do, we also plan on opening up the Lodge for more retreats – educational, business, health and so on.
Underpinning it all will be the protection and regeneration of the natural environment, which will be at the core of our everyday operations.
The future is exciting.