Real Journeys and Go Orange General Manager Paul Norris says he’s “deeply honoured” to receive the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the tourism industry and conservation. He attributes his long-standing commitment to conservation to “being in the fortunate position of being able to make a difference and having the absolute backing of the organisation – conservation has always been a cornerstone of the business established by Real Journeys founders, Les and Olive Hutchins”.
The award, says Real Journeys espouses strong conservation values, contributing funding and support to a variety of projects. As General Manager, Paul Norris has introduced a number of conservation support initiatives that include the Cooper Island Restoration Project, a half-million (plus) dollar project to control predators and bring back birdlife, and the annual Cruise-for-a-Cause that has raised over $260,000 in the last five years to help organisations like Forest and Bird, the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust and the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital. Paul has also been heavily involved for eight years with an ambitious project to remove predators from Rakiura /Stewart Island, and has been Chair of Predator Free Rakiura for the last three years. The project recently received a million-dollar boost from the Department of Conservation.
“I’ve always had strong conservation values, and working with some like-minded people, it’s been highly rewarding to be able to make a difference. I also think tourism can influence the way people think about their environment in a really positive way. It’s about getting that balance right – letting visitors experience the parks and waterways but always through a conservation lens.”
Not one for the limelight, Norris quietly admits the award “feels good” after what has been the most challenging year he has faced in his 35 years working in the tourism industry – 28 of those with Real Journeys.
Paul Norris is a highly respected leader, renowned for his organisational ability, fast decision-making, for never losing his calm and always being willing to share his knowledge and help where he can. This year, his skills were called on by Civil Defence Emergency Management Southland when February’s storm closed the Milford Road trapping hundreds of tourists. He directly took the lead in the coordination of passengers from Milford Sound with other emergency services, using Real Journeys resources to transport and process passengers from the Milford Road to Te Anau and via flights onwards to Queenstown.
Reflecting on his work in tourism, Norris says he always tries to look at the big picture (New Zealand Inc.) and involve the local communities where he can. “It’s important that people who live and work in these environments have a say on what may influence their way of life.”
Wayfare Chair, Jim Boult, says the Board is very pleased that Paul has been recognised at the highest level. “We’re honoured to have Paul as part of our team. His commitment to conservation values and service to the company is deeply appreciated and admired,” says Boult.
The Hutchins family, owners of Real Journeys, are also delighted with the news.
“Paul’s strong sense of ethics and values have made him an outstanding leader over many years. He’s always worked incredibly hard for Real Journeys, and yet still manages to give freely of his time, knowledge and business expertise to the community and conservation projects he’s passionate about,” says Robynne Peacock, daughter of Real Journeys founder, Les Hutchins.
Les Hutchins was awarded a Distinguished Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for services to conservation and tourism (the non-titular equivalent of a Knighthood) almost 20 years ago.
The New Zealand Order of Merit is awarded to those “who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions, or other merits”.