District to host orienteers for big event

New Zealand's top orienteering event comes to North Otago for the first time over Easter, bringing with it more than 500 competitors.

The New Zealand orienteering nationals for 2019 start tomorrow with a short, sharp sprint championship that will take competitors through the Oamaru Public Gardens to the town's Victorian precinct, a distance of between 1.6km and 3.7km, based on its technical difficulty.

That is followed by the long-distance championships at Kuriheka, near Maheno, that covers distances between 2.1km and 13.1km.

The event's website describes the terrain that awaits competitors as "flat-topped farmland between gullies forested in mature manuka and pine''.

The middle-distance event is scheduled for Sunday at Maerewhenua on private land near Duntroon, the site of now abandoned gold mines that "will test your navigation skills''.

It covers between 1.7km and 3.8km.

Another sprint relay takes place at Waitaki Boys' High School on Sunday, before the final relay event at Earthquakes, again near Duntroon, on Monday.

Event co-ordinator Jan Harrison said 570 competitors had entered the championships, including more than 50 from Australia, a handful from the United Kingdom and a family from Finland, who were visiting the South Island over Easter.

She said the event would be tougher than usual, given competitors had not experienced North Otago's terrain before.

"It's a very new area for us. It's definitely uncharted territory for us.

"There's one map in the area we are using for [the] relay, but other than that we haven't been in that area before,'' Ms Harrison said.

"It's really exciting to be in an area that no-one else is familiar with, so it makes it a really level playing field.

"Everybody is coming in fresh and having to navigate with brand new maps in places they've never been before.

"It becomes a real test.''

The nationals are being hosted by the Christchurch-based Peninsula and Plains Orienteers club.


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