The New Zealand Defence Force and Ne Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) joined forces recently to survey potential avalanche risks and remove about two tonnes of discarded wooden tracks in Nelson Lakes National Park.
CAPTION: Personnel from the New Zealand Army’s 5 Movements Company and the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No.3 Squadron remove debris from Travers Valley in Nelson Lakes National Park, in support of the Department of Conservation. NZDF photo.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore Andrew Clark said the NZDF provided logistic expertise and heavy-lifting capability for DOC projects that had a direct impact on the safety of the thousands of people who visit Nelson Lakes National Park each year.
Information gathered during the survey, last conducted by DOC in 2016, will be provided to the Mountain Safety Council, a national organisation that publishes online advisories on avalanche risks as part of its mandate to encourage safe participation in land-based outdoor activities.
Crews and helicopters from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No.3 Squadron, which were in Dip Flat for an exercise, carried out the tasks with personnel from the New Zealand Army’s 5 Movements Company.
“This is a great example of how the NZDF supports our community in a tangible way,” Air Commodore Clark said.
“It also gave our personnel an opportunity to enhance their skills while carrying out real-world tasks.”
DOC Senior Ranger Phil Crawford said two department staff and an avalanche expert flew on an RNZAF A109 helicopter to survey potential avalanche paths in the 101,000-hectare national park.
“The NZDF has been assisting us in conducting similar surveys in other avalanche-prone areas in the country,” Mr Crawford said.
RNZAF NH90 helicopters lifted track markers and 9 tonnes of gravel that will be used by DOC to create walking tracks in the park.
They also delivered five tonnes of firewood to four DOC huts – Blue Lake, Upper Travers, Speargrass and Bushline – which are more than 1000m above sea level.
Another NH90 helicopter lifted about two tonnes of waste material from a disused boardwalk in Travers Valley.
“NZDF support has been valuable because it helped us to undertake work that we have been unable to achieve for years,” Mr Crawford said.