Well 2022 has well and truly kicked off in fine style for Orienteering, and big congrats to PAPO and Dunedin for running a very successful “Not the” Oceania Orienteering Champs and support events in Canterbury and Otago. Unfortunately I missed it through injury, but heard many positive things about the varied terrain and testing courses (the Long sounded particularly testing!), so a big thanks to everyone involved in running the event. Summer events are great, but they are hard on volunteers and organisers who give up a chunk of what normally is holiday time to put on events for the rest of our entertainment, so big appreciation goes out to all involved.
Whilst the year has started positively, the level of uncertainty associated with Covid is no less than it was in the previous years, and an early casualty has been the cancellation of the Northern Regional Champs which OBOP and Taupo were well underway in organising. This event had already been postponed from Labour weekend, and it was a very tough and strongly debated decision to arrive at the one to cancel. Whilst both clubs were confident in their ability to run the event under red traffic light settings, the bigger issue was around the uncertainty associated with Omicron and the potential for it to exponentially increase across the community in the coming weeks and months. This is something new for NZ, learning to live with and manage Covid amongst us, and so there will be a lot that we need to learn both generally and as a sport in the coming period. Once again we face the need for being agile and responsive in the face of uncertainty, and I know this is something every club faces at their local level.
I have had many discussions with club leaders and members across the sport about running events and the application of vaccination requirements (or otherwise). I know in some clubs this has created tension, and whilst the vast majority of orienteers are in favour of vaccination requirements, there are a few who have differing views. Many of these are people we know well, respect and have friendships with, and who have brought huge value to the sport. Whilst these relationships will continue to be important, right now it is extremely challenging to run events without vaccine requirements, and in a way that people feel is responsible, safe, and reduces the risk and spread of COVID. Some clubs are finding ways to accommodate both, with formal events for vaccinated people and virtual (Maprunner) events for anyone. Of course ONZ’s position is very much in support of vaccination as a way through the pandemic, however we do acknowledge these are sensitive issues and if club leaders are wanting support, please get in touch with myself, Christo, or any Council member.
Lastly, we are very sad to see Russell Higham moving on from his role as Event Liaison Officer. Russell has been a major part of the ONZ operation, and both the previous GM (Catriona) and current (Christo) have relied on him a lot for his immense knowledge and skills around all things orienteering. So a huge thanks to Russell and we wish him well in his next steps. Whilst we are sad to lose Russell, we are delighted to welcome Michael Croxford who is taking up the Event Liaison role early in the new year. Many of you know Michael, and will appreciate that he too brings huge knowledge, passion, and skills which will add real strength to the ONZ operations. We are really looking forward to having Michael as part of the team.
Speaking of team, some Council positions are at the end of their term this year, so there is an opportunity for others to apply to be part of Council. It may be incumbents are happy to continue, however we are very keen to connect with people who may have a longer term interest in being part of the Council. Personally it is something I have really enjoyed being part of, and have worked with some great people, current and past, and it is a chance to make a difference and contribute to the sport on a national level. It is also a great chance to get experience in Governance, so can be a useful stepping stone into other governance roles which some people may be interested in. I’d certainly love to hear from anyone who has an interest and we would be very encouraging for people to get involved.
Like many of you, I am hopeful that we will work through the challenges in this coming period with Covid fine, and encourage all orienteers to take sensible precautions to keep you safe and well. On a positive it does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel in terms of Omicron being something we may live with in the long term. It will be great to see some normality return sooner rather than later, and especially return to travelling again outside of NZ. In the meantime stay safe and well, and happy running.
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