From humble beginnings and a passion for conservation: How RealNZ began

Date: 9 September 2016

Les and Olive Hutchins began their tourism operations way back in 1954 with a remote walking track, a couple of old boats, two huts and a dilapidated lodge.

Doubtful Sound is in the heart of Fiordland National Park; 1.25 million hectares of wilderness. To access it required a boat trip across Lake Manapouri followed by a walk over the Wilmot Pass. It was remote, there was no electricity, no road and suppliers were hundreds of kilometres away.

Against these odds, Les still wanted to share Fiordland’s pristine environment with others and he held the strong belief that “Conservation is the real cornerstone of tourism”.
In the early 1970’s the Hutchins played a major part in the “Save Lake Manapouri” campaign which successfully stopped the government from raising the lake’s water level for hydroelectricity.

In 1973, Les Hutchins became a Guardian of the Lakes, (a position he held for 26 years) and spent 12 years on the New Zealand Conservation Authority. Les was awarded both an Order of the British Empire (1988) and a “Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit” (2002) for his services to both tourism and conservation. Last year he was inducted posthumously into the NZ Business Hall of Fame. “He created an amazing business from very small beginnings then put a lot back into the community,” said selection panel chairman Sir Eion Edgar.

The Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation continues to support conservation projects and help less advantaged people experience our southern national parks. As well as money gifted by Les and Olive Hutchins, the foundation receives over $50,000 every year from RealNZ, which donates $1 per passenger on its Doubtful Sound excursions.

Today RealNZ remains a successful privately owned company that operates a range of high quality excursions in southern New Zealand.

Footnote: The Hutchins’ first tourism company was called The Manapouri-Doubtful Sound Tourist Company, it then became Fiordland Travel which became Real Journeys in 2002 and finally was rebranded to RealNZ in 2021.

About the author: Will

Originally arriving in Queenstown for a two week holiday, 15 years later he's still here - living the dream. Working in the digital realm means he's never too far from an electronic device and when not in the office you'll find him planning DIY projects he'll never start or enjoying a cold beer with mates.

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