Competitions - NZTA Kaikōura Challenge | UC Centre for Entrepreneurship

NZTA Kaikōura Challenge

Kaikōura has long been dependent on visitors for its economic well-being due to its position as a thoroughfare to and from the Nelson and Marlborough regions, as well as a destination for coastal and marine tourism. However, the devastating earthquakes of 2016 have left the Kaikōura region shaken in more ways than one. Significant road damage, confusion and uncertainty surrounding road access, and concern for safety has resulted in a drastic drop in visitors to the region. Consequently, the livelihoods of Kaikōura business owners and residents are now at risk.

To assist our neighbours, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) came together to deliver the NZTA Kaikōura Challenge. The challenge aimed to provide much needed assistance to our Kaikōura neighbours post-quake.

The Challenge provided a unique opportunity for UC students to make a positive difference to a community in need. The solutions they developed have the potential to have a real impact on the economic and social well-being of Kaikōura residents both now and in the years to come. The Challenge also provided a platform to build key skills and knowledge that will benefit their careers including team work, creative thinking, strategy development, community development, networking, stakeholder engagement, and presenting.

Students and staff Friday morning waiting to leave for Kaikōura Students and staff Sunday afternoon before leaving for Christchurch

The Challenge

Michelle with the UC car setting up at basecamp Students exploring the Kaikōura beach

Two sessions were run prior to the Challenge starting (Sunday the 14th and Wednesday the 17th of May) to prepare students for their trip to Kaikōura. This included providing them with strategies, resources, templates, and key skills that they needed.

On the 19th of May, the UCE team took 20 students from across the University to Kaikōura where they worked in teams to create innovative solutions to encourage visitors to the region, to provide economic stimulation, and improve public perceptions of Kaikōura. Utilising the xpertise of UCE, NZTA, UC academics, and industry mentors, the teams worked tirelessly for over 36 hours to ideate and develop their solutions. Over the course of the weekend, students engaged with over 50 Kaikōura business owners, operators, council member, youth, and community members to gain insight into the post-quake enviornment, identify key problems, and build connections. The students also attended briefings from local officials and talks with key stakeholders, including the Kaikōura District Council.

The Challenge culminated on Sunday afternoon with a 5-minute presentation by each team, followed by a 5-minute Q&A from the judges. The judging panel included both local and national representatitves and consisted of:

  • Martin McMullan, NZTA Director of Connected Journeys
  • Winston Gray, Mayor of Kaikōura
  • Frank Owen, Managing Director of Owen Partners (NZTE Beachead Advisor, UC International Advisory Board, previous CEO of Tait)
  • Treska Forrester, NCTIR Journey Manager
Students and staff arriving in Kaikōura Students at penal session with industry representatives

The Teams


Team Eno talking to community members Team Eno talking to Mel Skinner from the Council


  • Hannah Schaepsmeyer (Bachelor of Science)
  • James Kay (Bachelor of Science)
  • Matt Taylor (Bachelor of Laws & Bachelor of Arts)
  • Sarah Kaynes (Bachelor of Arts)

Solution: Packages for visitors to Kaikōura with a minimum of two nights stay focusing on lower-end accommodation market with backpackers, hostels and campgrounds. Packages include transportation, accommodation and a leisure activity at a discounted price which can be purchased from existing tourism websites, such as Destination Kaikōura. Packages are customisable and visitors are able to select their preference of accommodation and activity and book online. A retail map is also provided with exclusive vouchers for local shops, providing economic stimulation for retail, accommodation, tourism and travel sectors. The framework has the potential to scale up to different markets including mid and high-end accommodation.

Peak Development

Peak Development talking with community members Peak Development at pitch check-in


  • Brooke Maslin (Bachelor of Arts)
  • Jack Wood (Bachelor of Laws)
  • Logan Williams (Master of Science)

Solution: “Kaikōura by Night” a programme of three events over July and August including a Night Market, Coastal Sparks and Lights by the Sea. This solution aims to utilise existing spaces available in Kaikōura and fills the gaps in existing events programmes to incentivise locals and domestic visitors to get out and about in Kaikōura over the winter months. Overall, this solution provides a much needed draw to encourage visitors during the quiet, winter season.


Team Koura talking with mentors and community guests Koura talking to Nick at Mountain Honey and Mead


  • Charan Ashokraj (Master of Business Administration)
  • Florence Hinder (Bachelor of Engineering with Honours)
  • James Ramsay (Bachelor of Engineering with Honours)
  • Sophie Guy (Bachelor of Commerce)

Solution: A Virtual Reality experience consisting of a branded, cardboard headset and an app to showcase Kaikōura to Canterbury families. Utilising students from UC to develop the app, this solution enables potential visitors to preview the township, see the business that are open and the activities that are operating. Businesses can also push information to customers about their stores and what they can offer. Though initially focusing on Canterbury, there is huge potential to push to national and international markets.

Whenua ki te Moana (“From the land to the sea”)

Whenua ki te Moana talking to community guests Whenua ki te Moana speaking with local families


  • Echo Fang (Master of Commerce)
  • Euan Fairbairn (Bachelor of Engineering with Honours)
  • Jeremiah Go (Bachelor of Commerce)
  • Nicola Whelan-Henderson (Bachelor of Engineering)

Solution: A community hub focusing on Kaikōura youth to provide social and recreational facilities that were lost during the earthquake. Drawing inspiration from the Re:Start Mall, the hub offers wi-fi enabled arcade, education, arts and social spaces in a central location. Using pop-up infrastructure, the hub can be modified and moved as demolished sites are rebuilt and new spaces become available. The aim of this solution is to have positive social and community impact while also creating a point of interest for media to encourage visitors to Kaikōura.

Manawa Ora

Manawa Ora brainstorming Manawa Ora talking to industry representatives and mentor


  • Alexander Simson (Bachelor of Science)
  • Harry Wong (Bachelor of Science with Honours)
  • Josh Barry (Bachelor of Engineering with Honours)
  • Philip Liscom (Bachelor of Science)

Solution: CamperMate is an existing free app for New Zealand visitors that shows the locations of key services for those travelling in campervans such as petrol stations and dump stations. Partnering with CamperMate, geographical information obtained from user date will be utilised to pinpoint where consumer make decisions regarding accommodation, hospitality, retail and tourism purchases. With the intention of capitalising on the upcoming Lion’s tour, push notifications will be sent directly to app users at these key points with road updates and promotional incentives to visit Kaikōura.

The team also spent their time in Kaikōura making this short promotional video, "Kia Ora from Kaikōura", check it out here!


The judging criteria emphasised three main areas: customer, impact, and innovation. Specifically, the jusges were asked to consider whether the solutions were customer-driven, were validated by talking with the community, clearly focused on a particular audience, sustainable, had a significant short-term impact, had scope for expansion, creative, used existing concepts creatively or a unique solution, data driven and whether the team had a prototype.

All teams performed incredibly well and the judges had a difficult job selecting just three places. The results are as follows

  • First place ($1500): Peak Development
  • Second place ($700): Manawa Ora
  • Third place ($500) and People’s Choice ($300): Koura
Peak Development Manawa Ora Koura
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