One of our NH90s from No. 3 Squadron has flown a shelter to Nelson Lakes National Park to house Department of Conservation (DOC) wardens tasked with protecting the world’s clearest lake.
The helicopter and crew, helped by soldiers from the New Zealand Army’s 5th Movements Company, moved the 1000kg shelter about 32 kilometres from St Arnaud to its new location beside Blue Lake – about 1200 metres above sea level.
No. 3 Squadron was already in the area for Exercise Blackbird, practising flying in mountainous terrain should it be required for search and rescue operations.
“This task is the NZDF’s latest tangible support for the New Zealand public and our environment,” NH90 captain Flight Lieutenant Christopher Ross said.
“We are pleased that we are able to use our skills and our aircraft to protect such a pristine environment and a source of pride for New Zealand.”
Blue Lake, also known as Rotomairewhenua, has the clearest natural fresh water in the world and is considered sacred by the local iwi, Ngati Apa Ki Te Ra To. It is in Nelson Lakes National Park, which is popular for camping, tramping and fishing.
DOC Nelson Lakes Office senior ranger Phil Crawford said the shelter would provide accommodation for volunteer wardens at Blue Lake Hut.
“Visitor numbers to Blue Lake have increased significantly in the past two years, as word has spread about the amazing clarity of its water and with more people walking the Te Araroa Trail,” he said.
“This is putting pressure on the environment, with visitors leaving toilet waste in the nearby tussock and washing dishes or bathing in the lake.
“Wardens at Blue Lake Hut will enable us to manage high numbers of visitors by staying overnight in the area and ensuring that the lake and environment are protected.”
DOC had a history of working with the NZDF on airlift tasks, as well as engaging new recruits to work on tracks, Mr Crawford said.
“We value our relationship with the NZDF and appreciate their logistical expertise.”