We've lost a couple of our high country huts in just the last few weeks. This has added to the continual toll of the last few years — with the demise brought on by weather, bushfires, carelessness on the part of people using the huts, as well as, sadly, by vandals.
Back in April, when I was up around the Mitta Mitta River, we found the Wombat PO hut had a huge old gum tree drop down on it, completely demolishing one end of this remote hut. Then, just a week later, vandals burnt down a privately-owned hut up near Mayford and killed a couple of cattle. It seems the police have done a great bit of work and have caught the culprits.
The continuing toll is nothing new, in fact, storm damage to our historic huts is an ongoing problem for land managers and for those friends of the huts who try and maintain them. There are of course, bushfires which have ravaged much of the high country and destroyed a significant number of huts, especially in Victoria. It's a pretty daunting job for all involved!
In the Victorian high country, which the local Victorian High Country Huts Association (VHCHA, hutsvictoria.org.au) details as stretching from Healesville and Woori Yallock in the west, east to the NSW border and basically north of the Princess Highway to Myrtleford, Tallangatta and Corryong; there are a total of 186 historic huts they look after. Most are in the Alpine National Park, or on DELWP land, while some are on Alpine Resort Land with just a few on private land.
In NSW, the Kosciuszko Huts Association (khuts.org) look after over 200 historic structures, 178 of them in Kosciuszko, while the remainder are in the Namagi and Brindabella regions of the NSW and ACT high country.
Meanwhile, down is Tassie, the Mountain Huts Preservation Society (mountainhuts.com.au), lists 43 huts of interest.
RESTORATION & REJUVATION
Just a few weeks ago, the VHCHA along with a few helpers, carried out some rejuvenating work on the Bindaree Hut on the banks of the Howqua River, upstream from Sheepyard Flat — a popular destination for walkers, horse riders and 4WDers. With its log wall construction and corrugated iron roof, it has always been a fine example of bush carpentry, while the few weekends of hard work has resulted in the old hut being renovated, hopefully to last for another 50 to 100 years — bar storms and bushfires!
For the VHCHA, this hut is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the work they have been involved in. Since their formation after the devastating fires in 2003, the association has restored or rebuilt over 30 of the huts, including such iconic buildings as Wallace Hut (the oldest building in the Vic high country), Davies Plain Hut (my favourite destination in the Alps) and a whole lot more that mean so much to so many people, whether they are mountain cattlemen, foresters, 4WDers, deer hunters or bushwalkers.
All these huts are more than just historic structures. As the Tasmanian huts website states, they are memorials to those pioneers who helped open up the country and are part of our Australian cultural heritage. They are also, importantly, a safety refuge for when the weather turns foul and many people owe their lives to these rough, bush made structures dotted through our mountain country.
As 4WDers and campers who enjoy our high country, it is beholden on us to look after these historic buildings, whether we are camping beside them or sheltering from a snow storm inside them. If you get the chance to help out in restoring one or more of the buildings, it's an ongoing task and each state hut organisation is always looking for volunteers and helpers. Or just join — it only costs $40 a year and your money goes to a great cause.
For the organisations involved and the 4WD clubs already helping out in keeping our High Country huts alive and well, you have this writer's admiration and gratitude ... it's a job well done; thanks a lot!