Secret squirrel as AIMS stars line up

Tauranga students Aiden Reinhard and Ben Ranford are looking forward to orienteering being an official sport in the Zespri AIMS Games for the first time this year. Photo: John Borren.

Mackenzie Wagstaff is sworn to secrecy. The Year 13 Mount Maunganui College student is helping to prepare a top secret orienteering course for this year’s Zespri AIMS Games.

Mackenzie is in charge of planning the orienteering sprint course, with oversight from Orienteering Bay of Plenty. Orienteering, along with surfing, is an official sport in the Zespri AIMS Games for the first time this year.

Orienteering will have two distinct events: the rogaine, to be held at McLaren Falls Park, and the sprint, which will be held at The Historic Village.

“Sprints are usually done in urban environments,” says Mackenzie.

To complete the sprint, athletes must navigate their way to a series of control points in order, racing for the fastest overall time.

Ideal location 

Mackenzie says The Historic Village is an ideal sprint location because there are multiple routes to any given point. Plotting the most efficient route under pressure is key. The precise course is kept secret until race day.

With more than 270 individuals entered into the sprint, it will be a busy day at the village.

The Historic Village manager Blair Graham says the village community is “super excited” to be included as a venue for the Zespri AIMS Games, and the café and retail stores will be open as usual.

“It’s been fun seeing how the village will be integrated into the course, creating a unique and very cool backdrop to the event.

“Zespri AIMS Games is such a significant event for Tauranga and for rangatahi from all around New Zealand and the Pacific,” says Blair.

“We’ve thought a lot over the years about how The Historic Village could be more involved, so when the AIMS management team came to us with an idea to include orienteering, we jumped at the chance.”

Easy fit 

For the rogaine at McLaren Falls Park, more than 100 teams will navigate their way to as many control points as they can within a 60-minute time limit. Park ranger Beau Bennett, of Tauranga City Council, says orienteering is an easy fit for McLaren Falls.

“We already have a relationship with Orienteering Bay of Plenty, so formalising a Zespri AIMS Games event here was a no brainer,” says Beau.

“It gives us a chance to put our best foot forward to showcase the park. McLaren Falls Park is a hidden gem, being a bit out of town. A lot of people haven’t been here before, so we welcome and encourage events like this.”


Dennis de Monchy from Orienteering Bay of Plenty thinks most athletes will cover about 6km during the hour of the rogaine.

“We try to get them to visit interesting areas of the park that they wouldn’t normally visit.”

Dennis estimates about 50 per cent of the Zespri AIMS Games orienteering entries are first-timers who’ve been attracted to the sport because it is an accessible way to participate in the games.

One of the first-timers is Year 7 student Spencer Gaby, who says he’d not have entered the Zespri AIMS Games if it weren’t for orienteering being introduced.

Spencer attended a recent training day at Waipuna Park and is brimming with enthusiasm.

“The running part is hard work, but it’s fun,” says Spencer. “You’re running around, trying to find different things. It feels like you’re Indiana Jones.”

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