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Volunteers muscle up for Richmond Range hut move

Nelson Tramping Club members help attached the Mt Fell hut to its foundations in its new location in the Richmond Range.

COLUMN: The power of volunteers has been demonstrated by the fact Mt Fell hut in the Richmond Range is now open for business in a scenic and safe location.

It was discovered the hut was on a slowly-moving slip, and was closed in February 2015 as it was unsafe to use.

The hut had low visitor number prior to being closed so its future was uncertain, but the Nelson, Marlborough and Waimea Tramping Clubs (members of the Federated Mountain Clubs NZ), along with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, stepped in and saved the hut from permanent closure.

The clubs' involvement was co-ordinated by Lawrie Halkett who worked with Department of Conservation staff to develop a management agreement and execute the plan to install new foundations for Mt Fell Hut, a new fire and spruce up the hut's interior and exterior.

READ MORE: 'Brazen' thieves steal fireplace from Marlborough backcountry hut

The hut was relocated 300 metres by the air force to a site that was away from any moving hillside, further along the track. Moving the hut by helicopter was difficult and technical work, but that was only the beginning.

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Led ably by Silvano Lorandi, the team of tramping club members had to dig holes, construct new piles and bearers, shuffle the hut over and on to them, and fix it firmly in place.

Once this was achieved, the second phase began. The hut was re-roofed, repainted inside and out, a new fireplace installed, the water tank relocated, as well as a new wood shed, new benches and mattresses.

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This was much more than simply moving the hut to a safe location.

There were 21 club members involved, who did a total of 308 hours of work. This work will benefit all the users of Mt Fell hut for many years to come.

Volunteers play a very valuable role in conservation work in Marlborough and the rest of New Zealand.

Like the members of the tramping clubs involved in the Mt Fell hut project, volunteers are a pleasure to work with, as their passion for our natural places and dedication to protecting our biodiversity, ecosystems and the recreational assets that we have is always inspiring.

DOC have many volunteers who work closely with us all over the region – 2016 saw 458 people volunteering for DOC in the Marlborough region.

However, the are many more people that we don't know about who carry out valuable conservation work off their own bat. They may be trapping for predators on their own land, or planting native trees.

Perhaps they carry out control of weeds that threaten our native forests, or practice 'Leave No Trace' principles when in the outdoors.

Conservation happens both on and off DOC land, and the efforts of the community, whether we know about it or not, are invaluable in achieving DOC's nationwide goals – thank you!

- Clare Moore is community ranger with the Department of Conservation

The Marlborough Express

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