TW02102020NADRUGBY035.JPG Holly Furze and Lily Rivers, both 11, start planning their structure.
TW02102020NADRUGBY025.JPG Ruby Overington, 5, Emma Montefiore, 6 and Milla Workman, 8, work on collecting palm fronds to make their hut.
TW02102020NADRUGBY057.JPG Zoe Howe, 8, Reuben Haworth, 5, and Kayla Oakden, 8, show off their hut.
TW02102020NADRUGBY015.JPG Warren Gill (top left) with the Back 2 Basics school holiday programme kids.
A Whangārei businessman is doing his best to draw kids away from their devices and into the outdoors by teaching basic bush surviving skills throughout school holidays.
Heads Up Adventures owner Warren Gill and his wife Ange have been utilising their 58ha Waikaraka land for the last three years for mountain biking and monster scootering, after sculpting out multiple custom-designed trails. Recently it has evolved to include Back 2 Basics holiday programmes teaching, up to 30 children at a time, survival skills such as hut making, lighting fires, bush craft orienteering and forest and bird life.
Gill said, back in his homeland of South Africa when he was a teen, it was compulsory to carry out a year of military service aged 18 and he's thankful for it, believing it should be compulsory for youngsters to join an army boot camp for a minimum of six months.
"This gave me a good foundation on bush and survival skills. I also grew up on a farm until my mid-20s so spent a lot of time in the bush exploring. I firmly believe that kids should all have a basic foundation of bush skills.
"The reason is, many kids will encounter the outdoors, whether they hike or hunt, one day some of them will be caught out in the elements and need to put their thinking cap on. To survive in a situation like this, they need to keep calm and collective. They need to figure out their own safety and a plan to get out of their sticky situation."
He said childhood days of swings and climbing trees have been replaced by devices and kids have lost the idea of being kids.
"In some countries they don't really have many options for going outdoors but we are fortunate that we do have that option of the beautiful outdoors where people can go hiking or to the beach, all on our doorstep. It's all there to be taken up.
"I think today the whole society has shifted with both parents working and that's where technology prevails these days. When I was a kid, phones were used to make phone calls, now they're used for all things and you can buy across the world from it. It has got its pros but it's also got its cons."
On that note, Gill prefers phones to be left at home during his holiday programme so kids utilise their own brains. While some were hesitant at first, he said it doesn't take long for the children to fully embrace the outdoor activities with many keen to return the following holidays to a new line-up of activities.
Activities include building a compass out of basic materials and navigating in the wilderness. Kids are shown how to trap animals in the wild for food, safely target shoot, identify trees and how to purify water and examine fresh water cray fish. They also learn how to make an overnight shelter, light a fire without a lighter and then put it out safely.
"I believe kids will one day use these key tools in their lives. I think in today's madness of life kids miss out on this part of life, just getting out in the bush and being kids again."
Hollie Furze, 11, was taking part on her second day of the holiday programme when the Northern Advocate visited and said she enjoyed the outdoors aspect.
"It's fun because we get outside and make stuff," she said, adding that this was her first experience of the Back 2 Basics holiday programme. Stand-out activities for Hollie had been making possum traps and seeing the fresh water crayfish.
Her friend Lily Rivers, 11, said she didn't usually go to holiday programmes but was glad she had as "this is more fun - we usually just stay at home and do nothing so I thought I'd give it a go".
Five-year-old "outside boy" Kade Morgan was right in his element.
"I live on a farm so I spend lots of time outside. I liked making fires and huts and I've learnt how to make a compass," he said.
Once the kids return from their adventures in the bush, they often make a bee-line for the on site playground and trampoline area nearby the hilltop cafe - another evolvement - overlooking the 360-degree vistas of Whangārei Harbour and forest.
With a background in the civil construction industry, over the years Gill has constructed many different types of tracks for himself, his three active sons and their friends. Wanting to share the family's love of riding and the outdoors with others, they spent many weekends and summer nights constructing and sculpting an "outdoor haven of activity" using existing old farm tracks through native bush and indigenous forest converted into custom-designed bike tracks navigating through natural bush and stunning mountainous scenery.
Future plans include extending the school holiday programme to overnight adventure survival camps.