Fighting to raise lost park huts from the ashes

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Demandering Hut before fire.

A CENTURY of pioneer history will be lost, if two historic huts severely burnt in January’s bushfires are not rebuilt, a volunteer group has warned.

The two stockmen’s huts, Demandering and Max and Berts, in the southern Namadgi National Park were obliterated during the Orroral Valley fires.

Ten historic alpine huts were also destroyed by fire in Kosciuszko National Park (KNP), extinguishing links to an important part of the park’s cultural history.

There are 70 huts owned by National Parks across the high country in NSW and the ACT. The Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA) is a group of volunteers who have worked with the park services, for 50 years, to provide labour and materials for the upkeep of huts.

Clive Richardson… “If the huts aren’t reconstructed we will lose the physical reminders of an era, forever.”

Clive Richardson, 68, member of the KHA has ridden horses and bush walked through Kosciuszko and Namadgi National Parks for decades and says the loss of the huts – while small in comparison to the loss of homes, lives and animals – is huge in a historical sense.

“We have such little heritage in this country, so we need to preserve the huts as physical reminders of what life was like back then and to give people an understanding of just how tough people lived,” said Richardson.

“If the huts aren’t reconstructed we will lose the physical reminders of an era, forever.”

The KHA is lobbying the ACT Parks Service to have the two insured stockmen’s huts reconstructed. They are also calling on NSW Parks to rebuild all 10 huts in KNP.

In the past, huts destroyed by fire have not been replaced by the parks service and the association fears the two huts in Namadgi will face the same fate. 

“We are not sure what ACT Parks are going to do and we haven’t heard back from them whether they are going to commit to rebuild the huts or commemorate the site with a plaque,” he said.

Max and Berts Hut.

“The huts were insured and we will provide labour so this is a cost-neutral project and we are committed to rebuilding those huts one way or another.

“It’s not just the loss of the amenity or the heritage of the hut, it’s the precedent it sets; so does that mean that every time we lose a hut it’s not going to be replaced? 

“This is a changed fire environment and we are going to see ongoing issues with fire and so we need to have some sort of understanding of what’s going to happen if and when we lose more huts.” 

A spokesperson for the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate confirmed that no decision has been made in relation to rebuilding huts destroyed during the fires, but said the directorate recognises the “value” of the huts. 

The huts had been some of the few historical links left to the high country, including huts from early grazing times.

Max and Berts Hut was built 50 years ago and named after the Oldfield cousins, a long-standing pastoral family in the area. The Demandering Hut, also built half a century ago, was earmarked for an upgrade after parts of the hut were eaten by white ants.

Volunteers work on maintenance for Demandering Hut in February, 2018.

Mr Richardson praised ACT rangers and firefighters who performed a “Herculean” task saving the remaining 13 huts, maintained by KHA, that are scattered through the Namadgi National Park. 

The 10 huts destroyed by fire in the KNP were Delany’s Hut, Sawyers Hill Rest House, Happys Hut, Brooks Hut, Round Mountain Hut, Bradley and O’Briens Hut, Four Mile Hut, Vickerys Hut and two Linesmans Huts at 15 Mile Spur.

Mr Richardson said the NSW Parks Service has a good track record of replacing huts as demonstrated after the 2003 fires, and hopes this will continue across NSW and the ACT, for the benefit of park users.

“Horse riders, bike riders and bushwalkers all visit them regularly and they provide shelter for those in an emergency, people camp around them and the huts are constantly photographed,” Mr Richardson said. 

“The huts are a huge drawcard for the parks.”

 

 

 

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