Oxford, Canterbury, NZ

Friday 7 to Sunday 9 February 2020

Festival info

Where: Oxford, Canterbury, New Zealand 

Date: 7-9 February 2020

Price: $100

Limit: 100 people

Registration: Opening in November 2019.

Join the NZCA: You need to be a member to attend the festival, so why not join now. When you signup we can send you Festival updates.


Festival format

Every two years (from 2016) the NZ Canyoning Association runs a canyoning festival to supports its mission to:

  • Protect our Canyons
  • Raise the awareness of our Canyoners
  • Grow the sport of Canyoning in New Zealand safely

The Festival format is a combination of workshops on the Friday only and trips taking place on the Saturday and Sunday.

Note: This festival is for competent canyoners. If you are starting out looking to learn how to go canyoning the festival is not the place to start. There are no intro rigging or canyoning skills – please contact the Festival Partners for some training opportunities before the festival, especially if you are not familiar with New Zealand Aquatic canyoning. See FAQs below “What skills and fitness do I need?” below for more info.

The Friday workshop day will focus on critical aspects of improving recreational canyoner safety, e.g., how to safely undertake a jumping session as a group. Once the facilitators and programme are lined up, you can sign up to these on a first in basis.

On Saturday and Sunday, there will be several trips going to accessible canyons. You won’t be able to sign up for these in advance so turn up at around 7 pm the night before and arrange your trip with fellow festival-goers. You can check out the canyons you might want to do on the information website once you register.

For the safety and enjoyment of all, we want to help you choose the right canyon for your skills, ability, and equipment and ensure there is a right mix of local knowledge of New Zealand canyoning conditions in each trip.

Local and international canyoners welcome.

Get in touch with us at festival@nzcanyoningassociation.org


Pre-Festival Activities

Thursday 6 Feb 2020

  • 9 am-6 pm: Canyon SAREX. Invite only. It is an official activity of LandSAR NZ, in conjunction with the NZ Canyoning Association and the Christchurch Alpine Cliff Rescue team. See FAQs “Canyon SAREX” below for more info.

Official festival activities

Friday 7 Feb 2020

  • Workshops from 8 am TBC (workshops not finalised until shortly before the festival)
  • 7 pm onwards: Get together at the Oxford Town Hall and Community Centre. Organise your trip for the following day. BYO drinks and food.
  • 8 pm Official welcome by the NZCA. Briefing for all festival participants @ Festival HQ.
  • 9 pm: Canyon safety briefing @ Festival HQ.

Saturday 8 Feb 2020

  • 6 am-9 am (start) – 6 pm: Canyoning trips (as organised the night before)
  • 7 pm onwards: Evening function at Festival HQ. Organise your trip for the following day. BYO drinks and food.
  • 8 pm Presentations.
  • 9 pm: Canyon safety briefing @ Festival HQ.

Sunday 9 Feb 2020

  • 6 am-9 am (start) – 6 pm: Canyoning trips (as organised the night before)
  • Finish – see you next time.

Festival Partners

Pete has introduced a lot of canyoning equipment to New Zealand’s market place. Making the first free-draining bags, while creating a high-quality no-nonsense brand suitable for canyoners across NZ, he is an active canyoner and imports Kordas rope, AV harnesses, Raumer hangers etc. directly from the manufacturer’s.

Is the go-to store for specialist canyoning equipment out of Europe. They have a massive range of stock and can get pretty much anything in, plus they ship internationally at good prices.

Local manufacturers of quality canyon gear. Importers of just about anything else we can’t build. All NZCA members receive special club pricing. Get in touch with Darren and Shane to buy direct from the factory/importers and save.
Festival Offer: Free 20l Aspiring Dry Bag to every festival participant. Offer can only be redeemed in-store.

Venue and  location

Festival HQ will be at the Oxford Town Hall.

Facilities available at Festival HQ include a large auditorium with a stage, kitchen facilities, and a movie theatre.

From the Festival HQ, a short drive to the closest canyons at  Glentui and Ryde Falls Canyons (20 mins) and 1.5 hours drive to both  Mount Somers and the Arthurs Pass alpine canyons. It is 2-3 hours drive to canyons on the West Coast.

Getting to Oxford, Canterbury

Christchurch is the closest domestic and international airport. We recommend that you hire a car for the duration of your visit.

Frequently Asked Questions

As a minimum, you need a basic level of skills, fitness and equipment to be able to look after yourself in an aquatic canyon all-day. Walk-ins to start your day can be from 10 minutes to 3 hours.

Check out the article on Kiwi Canyons about the equipment and skills you need.

Kiwi Canyons – Canyoning FAQ

There is a range of levels of canyon trips you can choose to join. The Canterbury plains canyons (in normal flow) tend to be easier with shorter walk-ins. Arthurs Pass tend to be harder with longer walk-ins. So you and others have a good day out be conservative of your ability until you get a gauge.

The festival is designed around people having the skills to look after themselves in the canyon and bring the right gear. If you are just starting out looking to learn how to go canyoning the festival is not the place to start.

You are expected to participate in the canyon rigging and group decision making on a trip.

It is NOT possible to rent canyoning equipment in the Canterbury area.

You must plan to bring all your canyoning equipment with you and be self-sufficient.

Canyons in Arthurs Pass are wet [aquatic] and very cold! You are in an alpine environment above the bush line. 

Be prepared with thick wetsuits! You must be wearing a base layer of 4mm of neoprene with a preference for 5mm – A 3/2 wetsuit will NOT be suitable. You will be cold, miserable and have a terrible day. Carry extra thermal and windproof layers PLUS team survival gear and emergency comms at all times. 

Check out the discussion on canyoning gear for NZ conditions on the KiwiCanyons.org website. Many Canterbury canyons are alpine.

Exert from the Canyoning Technical Manual:

Several quality canyons have been opened in the Arthurs Pass region over the last few summers, ranging from V3A2 through to V4A4. 

There have also been some impressive canyons opened in the Wilberforce valley. 

There are now over 20 canyons spread throughout the Arthurs Pass, Mount Somers and Oxford regions to explore. 

Some of the best canyons on the West Coast, for example, Griffin Creek are only about 2 hours away from Canyon HQ. 

The Geraldine region boasts the excellent Kaumira Canyon, plus nearby are Andrews Stream and TeMoana Gorge – both training and jumping spots. 

A detailed Festival canyon information website highlighting all of the Canterbury Canyons will be released closer to the festival date and provided to canyoners on registration. This site gives canyon topos, maps, tips and everything you need to enjoy a great day out canyoning in Canterbury!

There is a limited range of accommodation available in Oxford. The Festival is being held over a public holiday/long weekend, so expect accommodation (and flights) to book out quickly.

Oxford Accommodation Guide

Experience Oxford Website 

This website outlines all of the local accommodation. Eg, backpackers, holiday homes etc



The local historical hotel boasts good room rate pricing, plus meals to please! Stay at the Pub!


Ashley Gorge Kiwi Holiday Park  

This is a great kiwi holiday park right next to the Ashley River. It is 5 minutes from the Festival HQ and is 10 minutes from Glentui canyon. There are a variety of options from tenting through to cabin accommodation. There is a good swimming hole right next to the campground.

Housed accommodation sleeps 70 including our Pod.

Dorms x 2 –  sleep 52 (own showers/toilets & bottom sheet/pillow included) $22 adults, $12 children. These rooms have a 10 adult minimum. 

Cabins with kitchenettes x 4 – sleep 4 (bedding included, has a double bed and a set of bunks) $80 first 2 guests and $15 each additional guest.”

You are advised to call and book a spot.

Other accommodation options

Christchurch is only 1 hour away and has a huge number of options though staying here will be less convenient to the festival HQ and local canyons. Darfield and Sheffield are also close by and have options available.

Freshwater pests can be spread by your activities in and around waterways. If you’re moving between waterways, you must clean all your gear using the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ method. Learn how to check, clean, dry your gear.

Didymo is an invasive aquatic pest that threatens all of NZ’s waterways. All participants of the Canyoning Festival must come prepared to CHECK, CLEAN and DRY their gear between canyoning trips. A single drop of water can spread this terrible pest, so Canyoners must be extremely vigilant to CHECK, CLEAN and DRY

Websites for more info:

Anyone coming from out of town will need to bring a 100L cleaning tub; you won’t be able to buy one in Oxford. There’s likely to be a bunch around at the festival, but soaking takes a while, so you’re going to need your own!!

There are lots of international participants to the festival, so make sure you keep an eye on your new friends and remind them to CHECK and CLEAN  and DRY their gear with the right amount of detergent, and for the right amount of time!

Environment Canterbury will provide small samples of detergent and Check Clean Dry Spray bottles; you must, however, bring your supplies of detergent, or purchase some at the supermarket.

A sizeable dry bag may be suitable for soaking smaller items, or your boots.

Some canyons in Canterbury are known to have Didymo (e.g. Woolshed Creek) and other that currently don’t – let’s not be the ones to spread it.

Thanks for keeping Canterbury a beautiful place to be!

Held in the Oxford Community Town Hall and Conference Centre, we will host an evening function on Friday, and Saturday from 7 pm.

There will NOT be any food or drink made available, so please bring your drinks (alcoholic beverages are allowed) and either eat beforehand or bring takeaways.

There will be spot prizes drawn from the list of all registered participants. There will be a raffle ($2 tickets, sold from the bar) for a significant prize pool of canyoning items.

Many of our festival partners will be present at the evening function, with services and products to see and buy. These great people and companies as they make these events possible, and support upgrades of our canyons throughout NZ.

We have hired the adjoining Oxford Movie Theatre and will be screening canyoning movies Friday or Saturday night.

Food and drinks will NOT be available for purchase at the Festival HQ, but you are free to bring your own.  You are allowed to bring alcoholic beverages. There will be some cooking facilities in the hall, but we recommend you eat beforehand or bring takeaways.  

The Mainstreet Bakery in Oxford is legendary and serves the world-famous Sheffield Pies. The main street in Oxford has a variety of cafes and restaurants. 

The local historic Oxford Hotel “Blackboard Menu” with Ribeye Steak, BBQ Ribs, Lamb & Kumara Burger, Tempura Fish Meal, Open Steak Sandwich, are all available until 8.00 pm. Prices are very reasonable, and bar snacks cost less than an Auckland Latte! Built-in the year 1878, this hotel is a “bit of a gem”. Good facilities including spa pool and sauna, great off-street parking, and rooms from $30 shared. 

There is a good Freshchoice Supermarket next door to the Festival HQ with food galore and lots of beer and wine.

Village Foods is an excellent takeaway serving delicious fish and chips and burgers. The pies are delicious too.

There are many other places to eat in Oxford, and all of them are on the main street near to Festival HQ.  The 10 best restaurants in Oxford- Trip Advisor


The closest health centre is in Oxford at the Oxford Community Health Centre (03 312 41953). This centre provides 24-hour medical care. Emergency medical care from Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department, which is 51 minutes drive away.

All participants must be willing to disclose any medical conditions and injuries before activities away from town. Anyone with conditions or injuries that cannot be effectively self-managed will unfortunately not be able to participate in those activities.

Safety and Rescue

There is a volunteer Search and Rescue Team based in Canterbury, with some canyon SAR capability. Even with a personal locator beacon, helicopter rescue may be many hours away or even the following day. All participants need to be prepared to spend the night in the canyon if there were an accident.

Groups need to carry: a suitable means of communication usually a PLB or Inreach, survival shelters, extra thermal layers, headlamps, food, medical supplies (appropriate to the canyon they are descending).

A detailed Safety Management Plan, including an Incident Response Plan, has been prepared for the festival. All participants need to read and follow the instructions in these plans.

  • Safety Management Plan: NZCA SMP V2 2018 (not an active link at the moment)
  • Incident Response Plan: Incident Response Plan v1.0 2018 (example from the 2018 festival)

Phone coverage

There is no mobile phone coverage in any Arthurs Pass canyons although there is limited coverage on the tracks close to the village. Mount Somers/Oxford canyons have some coverage near the carparks but none available inside the canyons. Teams need to be self-sufficient with rescue and survival gear and carry emergency communication devices.

Team check-in and check out

A designated person in each group will be responsible for communicating to Festival HQ the list of canyoners in their group for the days trip (using the Official NZCA Activity Sheet) and reporting back into HQ immediately when their group has safely exited the canyon. 

Each group must carry the Official NZCA Activity Sheet at all times detailing SOP and emergency procedures with numbers and contact details for check-in and check out.

Official NZCA Activity Sheet V1.1

To make this event a success, we need considerable support from volunteers.

If you would like to volunteer your time, please contact

We need volunteers for:

  • Preparing canyons in the week leading up to the festival
  • Technical workshop facilitators
  • Set up and clean up at the Festival HQ
  • Presentations at the evening function
  • Organising competitions
  • General assistance with things that may crop up during the event

If you are an experienced canyoner, please consider coming to the area for a few days before the festival as this will give you a chance to familiarise yourself with the local canyons.

NOTE: Any volunteers for technical roles must have a current first aid certificate and be competent to facilitate and operate in the canyon environment.

Get in touch if you want to volunteer: festival@nzcanyoningassociation.org

LandSAR NZ is pleased to partner with the NZ Canyoning Association and the Christchurch Alpine Cliff Rescue team immediately before the festival.

The main activity is on Thursday, 6 February, in Canterbury.

The Canyon SAREX is intended primarily for existing members of SAR teams throughout NZ to network, practise canyon specific SAR techniques gained from recent workshops and implement incident management. Dependant on interest, location and capacity, non-SAR team members who have skills and experience to offer may be able to participate or observe.

As such, participation in the SAREX is by invite only. If you have previous canyoning SAR experience and wish to attend, please email us.

Send all inquiries about the SAREX should to canyonsar@nzcanyoningassociation.org