Air New Zealand’s Great Walkers are Joel Cogger (Australia), Richard Harrison (United Kingdom) Stephanie Hathaway (United States) and Toshitake Suzuki (Japan).

The Great Walker competition is being run by Air New Zealand in association with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) and will see these four winners conquer the country’s premier DOC tracks; Abel Tasman Coast, Heaphy, Kepler, Lake Waikaremoana, Milford, Rakiura, Routeburn, Tongariro Northern Circuit and Whanganui Journey.

Applicants were asked to get creative and demonstrate why they thought they should win a place on the trip by uploading either a short YouTube video or a Pinterest board of inspiring images.

Air New Zealand then conducted interviews via Skype with a shortlist of 20 finalists who were assessed against a set of criteria, including personality, creativity and skills that may be useful on the trip.

The judging panel included Kiwi rowing champion Mahe Drysdale, television personality Tamati Coffey, DOC Ranger Cate Helm and Air New Zealand Head of Sponsorship and Community James Gibson.

Gibson says the calibre of entries was extremely high making it difficult to select only four winners.

“We received applications from trekkers and hikers in 45 different countries and were blown away by their amazing stories as well as the lengths that people were prepared to go to just to be involved in this epic Kiwi adventure,” he says.

- Stephanie Hathaway, a blogger from California, gave up her job in January of this year to travel the world and only weeks before being due to arrive in New Zealand she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She recently found out she was cancer free and is excited to at last realise her ambition to travel to New Zealand.

- Richard Harrison has proven he has the determination required to take on this challenge having already undergone a drastic transformation, losing 200lbs.  Only a few short years ago Richard was unable to travel and couldn’t walk more than a hundred metres. He now leads a healthy, active and action packed life and is looking forward to conquering this new challenge and inspiring others like him to take the first step on their journey.

- Joel Cogger, a Melbourne graphic designer, is looking forward to getting out from behind the computer and getting into shape as he conquers 550km of stunning New Zealand terrain.

- Toshitake Suzuki from Mount Fuji in Japan is a recent environmental studies graduate who’s passionate about travel and the outdoors. He lived in Canada for a year where he started ‘Nature Junkies’, an outdoor activities club.

DOC Ranger Cate Helm says: “The four winners will share their experiences with the world via an online blog and with some excellent story tellers and an adventure-packed itinerary it’s going to be a great opportunity to showcase some of our tourism gems to a worldwide audience.”

As well as the walks themselves, the group will take part in a raft of other outdoor activities. The walkers will be joined along the way by Air New Zealand and DOC staff and celebrity guests including rowing legend Mahe Drysdale and members of the world famous New Zealand All Blacks.

The Great Walkers will travel to New Zealand in February 2013 to take on this adventure of a lifetime.

For further competition details and to view the winners’ profiles, visit www.greatwalkernz.com.  For information on DOC’s nine Great Walks, visit www.greatwalks.co.nz.

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Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs ph +64 21 747 320