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The usually sleepy seaside town of Riverton is buzzing, after 860 teenagers and adults arrived on Saturday for Venture South 2013, a camp for Venturer Scouts of both sexes aged 14-18.
The scouts are spending five days on expeditions throughout Otago and Southland before returning to the Riverton racecourse for another five days of camping, activities and sightseeing.
Planning had been under way for two years by an Otago-Southland organising committee, Mr McRae, of Dunedin, said.
Participants flew into Dunedin, Queenstown and Invercargill airports or took buses from other parts of the country. Seventy buses and vans had been hired to transport them during their stay in the South.
The Venturers would cook for themselves during their expeditions but a caterer would look after them while they were camping at Riverton, he said.
Two large shower blocks had been hired for use at the racecourse and on-site activities included
a giant mud pit.
Sports equipment including 60 wetsuits had been purchased and would be sold after the camp.
Mr McRae said it had been a huge logistical challenge. ''We are dealing with a lot of people. But the organising committee has worked very, very hard to make it work and we are confident it will be a success.''
Venturer camps are held every three years. Mr McRae said many more Australians than anticipated were attending the Riverton camp.
The Australian contingent arrived in New Zealand before New Year and set off to tour the country in 10 buses before arriving in Riverton for the official welcome barbecue on Saturday. Organisers had worked with tourist operators across Otago and Southland on the expedition options, he said. They include tramping, climbing, bushcraft, abseiling, caving, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, rafting, an outdoor adventure camp, a farm skills programme at Telford Rural Polytechnic, cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail, scuba diving,and photography.
Among the most popular expeditions were two Stewart Island tramps.
Venture South 2013: the numbers
460 from Australia
170 leaders and helpers
$130,000+ food bill
$105,000+ infrastructure and transport bill
70 buses and vans required
21 expedition options