Whenua Iti’s name was given to the founding members of the trust in 1986 by local kaumatua Uncle Tom Bailey. The founder of Whenua Iti, Hazel Nash, gifted what she called ‘her little piece of land’ to the Trust and from this Uncle Tom chose the name Whenua Iti. The direct Maori translation of Whenua Iti is ‘little piece of land’. In Maori, the word Whenua also means placenta, drawing a deeper connection into the name Whenua Iti, as a small place from which great things can grow.
Conception: early 1980's
It was a dream of self-sufficiency that motivated Hazel Nash and her partner to move to a block of land in Lower Moutere. The local community was welcoming and new friends were easily made but after a few years the dream changed and grew. Hazel took ownership of the farm then travelled, observed, learned and experienced community-living. She came home with a plan to offer opportunities for holistic learning.
Creation: late 1980's
Hazel, together with her friends, formed a charitable trust. Peter Creswell, Anne Verity, Bruce Gilkinson, Chris Lawrence, Jennifer Wheeler, Brian Bird, Poppy Dearborn and Bev Fugle were the initial Board Members and many others, such as the entire Stanbridge family, gave unstintingly of their time and energy to ‘get the show on the road’. The first courses the Trust ran were holiday programmes for local kids, closely followed by outdoor pursuit adventure courses for women. It was tough at the beginning, all the staff and helpers were volunteers, the gear and transport was borrowed, and the programmes operated out of Hazel's lounge or barn. A long-term no interest loan was then made by Hazel, so that equipment and a Bedford van, descriptively known as ‘Thunderguts’, could be purchased
Evolution: late 1980's to early 1990's
With the Labour government offering financial support to courses that developed ready-to –work skills (i.e. life skills) amongst young people that were long term unemployed, the courses and activities offered expanded. Tutors could now be paid! With this expansion it was soon recognised that a bigger, specialised base of operations was needed, and so an old raspberry pickers shed was relocated from Tapawera to the farmlet, to serve as an office, staff room, loo, kitchenette and a cushioned group briefing/debriefing room. Around the same time the Tower was built by the NZ Army and the gardens were begun. The community was starting to recognise the uniqueness of Whenua Iti Outdoors and Tom Bailey a local Kaumatua, gifted Whenua Iti its name.
Consolidation: late 1990's early 2000's
In 1998 Hazel Nash was awarded the NZ Order of Merit for Services to Youth; an acknowledgement of the success of Whenua Iti Outdoors. By now Whenua Iti Outdoors is established as a service provider of outdoor courses. It is also a period of change with some of the orginal board members and staff standing aside and new staff coming on. The grounds continue to develop with 1400 native trees being planted in 1999 alone. It is during this period that Whenau Iti Outdoors Trust purchases its land from Hazel.
Growth: 2007 to 2012
After 20 years Whenua Iti Outdoors is still operating strongly, however externally the economy is faltering and the funding structure for courses changes considerably, requiring a change in strategic direction. This direction includes, investment in new capital projects: a new High Ropes course, Hall renovations and a new Administration Block. New courses are developed and the Friends of Whenua Iti is established. The groundwork is laid for many of the systems that are used today.
Innovation: 2013 to present day
2013 was a sharp change in direction for Whenua Iti Outdoors. The previous five years had seen a change in funding structures around the courses Whenua Iti Outdoors specialised in. It also coincided with an increased focus on safety mangement in adventure activities. Whenua Iti Outdoors has in the past five years moved away from offering adult courses and focussed on children and youth. It has invested heavily in safety mangement systems and is today an industry leader in the area of adventure safety management. Key programmes such as the Journey are still run.
Across the journey to date, the organisation has grown and changed, but the mandate and vision has always remained the same.