A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) NH90 medium utility helicopter has shifted a 1700kg Department of Conservation (DoC) hut sitting on an active slip in Mount Richmond Forest Park in Marlborough to safer ground.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Darryn Webb said the helicopter, from the RNZAF’s 3 Squadron, airlifted Mt Fell Hut about 300m to its new location on Thursday.
“No civilian helicopter can carry out the task in one lift due to the weight of the hut and the altitude of its location, which is over 1220m above sea level. The RNZAF NH90 is the only helicopter in New Zealand that can lift that much weight at that altitude,” AIRCDRE Webb said.
“This is another great example of how the NZDF assists our communities and other government agencies. The range of capabilities inherent in the NH90 enables it to perform a wide range of tasks, including airlifting heavy loads such as this.”
NH90 captain Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Chris Ross said the RNZAF helicopter also transported two loads of concrete and other construction materials that weighed a total of 1800kg and piles of timber that were used for the hut’s new foundations. Personnel from the Army’s 5 Movements Company also assisted in preparing the loads.
“We are pleased to have been able to assist DoC and the local community by relocating the hut and flying DoC staff, volunteers and construction materials to the site,” FLTLT Ross said.
Built in 1964, Mt Fell hut is a six-bunk hut situated below an alpine meadow a kilometre south of the summit of Mt Fell. The ridgeline above the hut, which is a popular stop for people climbing Mt Fell, offers scenic views of the Wairau Plains, Nelson Bay, Tasman Bay, the Pelorus Valley and Wellington.
DoC, which manages the hut, said it had to be moved because it was sitting on an active slip and was in danger of sliding into the mountain bush. The hut had been closed since March 2015.
The hut’s relocation has been made possible by the Federated Mountain Club and the Marlborough, Nelson and Waimea Tramping Clubs, which secured $16,000 funding from the Outdoor Recreation Consortium. The consortium received $500,000 from DoC’s Community Fund to help maintain and enhance backcountry facilities.
After the move, the hut will remain closed until Christmas. This will allow volunteers from the tramping clubs time to complete work on the foundations and gain code compliance certification to ensure the hut is safe for accommodation once again.
“It is great to work with the NZDF on projects such as this as we get to achieve more for conservation. Staff from both organisations learn new skills and experience different ways of working,” said Matt Flynn, Supervisor Recreation and Historic in DoC’s Wairau-Renwick office.
The RNZAF introduced the NH90s into service in 2013 to perform a wide range of roles in New Zealand and overseas. With sophisticated systems and greater capacity, the NH90 is able to carry up to 19 soldiers or undersling field artillery in support of combat operations in a medium-threat environment.
The RNZAF uses the NH90 helicopters for search and rescue missions, transport for military and government personnel and lifting of equipment while also maintaining a counter-terrorism response.
The helicopters also confirmed their ability to support a humanitarian aid operation on their first overseas mission in Fiji early this year, when they provided a critical link between the main population centres and the outlying islands which were devastated by Tropical Cyclone Winston. Almost 160 hours of relief missions were flown by the NH90s during the seven-week operation.