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Rock and Pillar
17 November 2003
News Media Release
A historic hut at the birthplace of skiing in Otago will be restored and maintained for public use.
Today the Rock and Pillar Hut Trust announced its formation and the transfer of ownership of the 'Big Hut' on the Rock and Pillar Range from the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club. Another hut on the range, 'Leaning Lodge', remains in the ownership of the tramping club.
Plans for a Trust to maintain Big Hut have been underway for several months and predate the Department of Conservation's (DOC) recently announced intention to have both huts demolished.
Big Hut is one of two former ski club huts close to the summit of the Rock and Pillar Range above Middlemarch. It is currently used as a base for cross country skiing and tramping. Otago Ski Club members built it after World War II, beside an earlier rock-walled shelter dating from 1938. This is the "home ground" for skiing in Otago.
Trust spokesman John Langley said that these huts arose in an era of voluntary effort and sacrifice that founded many of Otago's clubs and established the outdoors' heritage that some now take for granted. "It is perplexing that DOC chooses not to see any cultural or practical value in this living heritage. The hut offers shelter from adverse conditions and greater opportunities to explore the natural beauty of a large area of public land by allowing for an overnight stay", Mr. Langley said.
The underlying land came to DOC as the result of tenure review in 1997. At the time DOC justified this acquisition by recognising that the huts contributed to the area having prime recreational value. The Crown has expressed an interest in protecting these values for public purposes since the early 1980's.
Contrary to what has been reported in the media the hut is not in poor repair. DOC's engineering report states that the hut is in "average condition". It was built to withstand arctic-force gales and is structurally sound. The Trust is committed to protecting this historical and recreational asset.
The trustees have been involved in hut maintenance for many years and will continue to fulfill this role with help from the wider community. A 'Friends of Big Hut' group will be established to assist with fund raising and maintenance. "We are sure that there are many people with fond memories of this hut that will be pleased to rekindle their association with it". There is also established use by schools and other locals. The hut will remain unlocked and available for public use on payment of modest hut fees and abeyance to rules.
The trustees have commenced detailed inspection and costing for maintenance. "When this is complete we would welcome discussions with DOC over maintenance stan dards and to formalise the presence of the hut, however removal is not an option", Mr. Langley concluded.
Rock and Pillar Hut Trust Inc., R D 1, Omakau 9376, Central Otago, New Zealand