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New huts for Mt Cook region

20 August 2001 Media Statement

New huts for Mt Cook region


Prime Minister Helen Clark this evening announced that the ageing Plateau and Mueller huts in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park will be replaced with two new huts.

Helen Clark made the announcement at a function in Tekapo to mark the contribution to mountaineering and trekking by noted mountain guiding operators, Ann and Gottlieb Braun-Elwert.

The replacement huts will cost around $340,000 and $249,000 respectively. They are part of a hut replacement programme to be announced this week by Conservation Minister Sandra Lee in which back-country and mountain huts situated throughout New Zealand will be replaced over the next three years.

Helen Clark said that she herself has done a little skiing and climbing in the Southern Alps, and knows full well the value of safe and reliable mountain huts.

" Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park is world-renowned as a challenging alpine environment. Its huts make it more accessible. We need adequate facilities which enable access to the region while also taking care to preserve its exceptional character.

"Both the Plateau and Mueller huts are being replaced, rather than upgraded. Their exposed locations have taken a toll on the structures over the years. As well, growing demand, particularly on the Mueller Hut, means that it is sensible to build new huts. The new Mueller Hut will have increased capacity.

"New Zealand's network of back-country and mountain huts give access to some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness areas in the world. They are a very worthwhile investment," Helen Clark said.

Contact: David Lewis 021-409 492, Mark Watts 021-822 734

Background information

Plateau Hut

- One of the most important huts for climbers in the country. Has the third highest bed nights of huts in the national park after Kelman and Mueller.

- Situated at the base of both Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, NZ’s two highest mountains. Located on the easiest side to climb and provides essential accommodation for climbers.

- Hut was constructed in 1964. It is in an exposed location on the eastern edge of the Grand Plateau and the years have taken their toll. The current layout also not the best use of space.

- An upgrade would cost $80,000 to upgrade and would only last for another decade or so.

- Estimate of hut replacement cost is $340,000. Final cost won’t be known until the contract is put out to tender.

- The next step is deciding on the replacement hut’s design. One design that will be considered is the French Ridge Hut in Mt Aspiring National Park. DOC will consult with user groups over the proposed design prior to decision-making.

- Construction is probably about two and a half years away.

Mueller Hut

- Located in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park on the crest of the Sealy Range.

- The original Mueller Hut was built in 1914-15. It was replaced in 1950 but destroyed by an avalanche that same year. The current hut was built on a site free from avalanche danger in 1953.

- It is one of the few trampers' huts in Mt Cook as most of them are for climbers, and has become a popular overnight tramping trip. It has wonderful views of Mt Cook and Mt Sefton.

- The reason for replacement is that it is nearing the end of its life; particularly due to its exposed location. Baseline inspection concluded the upgrading option would involve a huge amount of work for very little gain.

- The current hut has 12 bunks, too few to meet the demand. The replacement hut will have 25-30 beds.

- A geological hazard assessment was carried out in the area and as a result the Mueller Hut will be located about 500m away from the current site. This is because a crack is appearing above the current hut which, in years to come, may result in ground collapse.

- Cost of replacement is estimated to be about $249,000. Specific cost won’t be known until after design has been determined and put out to tender.

- Like Plateau Hut, the Mt Ridge hut layout will be considered as an option and user groups will be consulted prior to a decision being made.


ENDS

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