6 July 2018
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and 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.
Air Commodore Andrew Clark, the Air Component Commander, said the NZDF provided logistic expertise and heavy-lifting capability for DOC projects that have a direct impact on the safety of the thousands of people who visit the 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.
Crew and helicopters from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) 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. It also gave our personnel an opportunity to enhance their skills while carrying out real-world tasks,” Air Commodore Clark said.
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-square 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 nine 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 1000 metres 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.