West Coast nature enthusiast Mike Osborne and his new business Paparoa Environmental Services are making their mark – all in the name of providing Kiwis with access to parts of our beautiful bush and coastline they wouldn’t otherwise be able to explore.
The great outdoors is one of New Zealand’s greatest assets and Osborne’s approach to creating safe and sustainable new track developments is winning him fans among government, local councils and community groups.
“We provide quality new track developments as well as preventative maintenance, storm repairs and consulting services. My aim is to achieve environmentally-sensitive walking and dual-use tracks, so the public can enjoy everything on offer in our own backyard,” says Osborne.
Achieving the right results, while reducing any potential impact, is one of Osborne’s key drivers for his business. He says there are often many different ways you could build a track, but it’s crucial to be conscious of the design, in order to keep the footprint to a minimum.
“The irony is not lost that you have to remove vegetation in order to create a walkway. But I am extremely mindful of how we can create access, with the least amount of ‘harm’ done to the natural environment. Good pre-planning from the start enables this to happen. Do it once, do it right,” Osborne explains.
“It’s also important that we focus on preserving the history of the area. So when I’m working on historic tracks, I need to ensure I’m protecting both the stories and physical features,” he says.
Prior to starting his own business, Osborne spent 17 years with DOC on the West Coast, working on the many historic tracks in the area (those constructed pre-1900s). As they are all protected by Heritage New Zealand, it’s important that any maintenance is carried out with extreme care, to ensure preservation of their historic features.
One of Osborne’s biggest achievements with DOC was being heavily involved in the construction of the Paparoa Track – New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk. From early investigations, to marking the feasibility line, project logistics and leading a DOC construction crew on the ground, seeing it open for public access was certainly a momentous occasion.
“It’s knowing that without these tracks, people wouldn’t be able to see some of the incredible locations we have here in New Zealand – both historically and naturally-significant environments.
“But it’s all about managing a balance of opening up these places of beauty and nature to people, all while taking a conservational-mindset to ensure the environment is protected for future generations. And this comes down to designing with an innovative approach,” says Osborne.