When avid mountain biker, Lou Hunt became a Trail Fund NZ trustee on the Backcountry Trust six months ago, she didn’t plan on becoming a legacy-leaving advocate. But, the impact it can have has got her thinking. To gain a better understanding of this insight, Trail Fund sat down with Lou to discuss leaving a legacy for what you love.

According to most, there are many ways to leave a legacy; be it money, time or influence. Lou agrees, but she says that when it comes to the Backcountry Trust, it’s become clear that money in particular can help achieve some big milestones.

“One thing I’ve noticed, since being in the role, is the number of bequests left to the Backcountry Trust (BCT) for the other two organisations involved,” says Lou. “Both Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) and the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA) are organisations that have had at least a generation of bequests coming their way.

“And these aren’t only small bequests – they can be property or a decent sum – which, when invested properly, can take an organisation from volunteer-run to professional.”

For those who don’t know, the BCT funds and supports volunteers to maintain huts and tracks on public conservation land for outdoor enthusiasts including trampers, deerstalkers and mountain bikers. Established in 2017, it is the successor to the Outdoor Recreation Consortium, which saw the three key organisations – FMC, NZDA and Trail Fund NZ – working together for the first time from 2014 to 2017. Each has two trustees on the Board, ensuring equal representation.

“The bequests mean both FMC and NZDA have people in funded roles, while Trail Fund remains completely volunteer-run,” explains Lou. “It’s not really surprising, given that trail building in its current capacity is a relatively new industry, but it’s never too early to plant the seed for the multitude of mountain bikers who may want part of their legacy to be leaving something to the recreation they love.

“As a passionate advocate for getting more women and girls into the sport, and as someone with no children, I am definitely keen for my legacy to go to trails on all three levels – money, time and influence. I’m currently working on the last two through my role with BCT and Wellington Off-Road Department (WORD) instruction but hoping the former will be a good 50 years away!”

Spreading the love

While we’re on the topic, Lou says that if you are going to write Trail Fund or the Backcountry Trust into your legacy, try to trust the system.

“What I’m currently keen to help shape, is the criteria around what a good BCT investment is, to ensure it’s broader than shrines of boyhood antiques.”

All jokes aside, Lou believes mountain bikers will want to leave a legacy to the sport that has offered them so much, it will just take time.

“The thing is, mountain biking may have been around in the 80s, but that’s not that long ago and, until now, it wouldn’t be clear who to leave a bequest to. Now that there’s such a great framework in place for outdoor recreation, would-be legacy leavers would know their bequests were in good hands.”

Final piece falling into place

Lou admits that another possible cause for pause may previously have been a lack of advocacy for mountain biking on Department of Conservation managed Crown land. However, that’s been steadily shifting over the past few years, and an announcement from Conservation Minister Kiri Allan in mid-December hopefully means any bequests coming BCT’s way will have plenty of Crown land to impact in the future.

The announcement, which highlighted an intention to modernise New Zealand’s conservation law, highlights the importance of reflecting what local communities want – including mountain biking!

Minister Allan noted, “Conservation planning and permitting decisions often don’t – or can’t – reflect what local communities want, or the latest environmental science. The current system isn’t fully facilitating the activities we want to enjoy, like mountain biking, or the scientific research we need to address the biodiversity crisis.”

But while Lou says she’s seen firsthand the difference bequests can make, it is by no means the only avenue.

“It’s really about getting out and giving back to the community you care about. Help build a trail, buy some Trail Fund gear or volunteer for a hut rebuild. Everything you do will be part of the legacy you leave.” •


Words: Meagan Robertson