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Aspiring Hut Upgrade – Feedback Wanted

Image: Aspiring Hut and view up valley to Mt Barff, 2019

Aspiring Hut – Your feedback on its future, please

Aspiring Hut is in need of substantial upgrade work to meet building code requirements for earthquake strength and to repair deteriorating timber piles and floor beams.  But before the Club moves to the next stage of planning that work, we would like your thoughts, suggestions and feedback.

Background

While Aspiring Hut is owned by the New Zealand Alpine Club, under an agreement established in 1989, the Department of Conservation manages the hut (and French Ridge, Colin Todd and Esquilant huts) for the Club.   Other buildings at the site are a toilet block, staff quarters, and camp-ground cooking shelter.  Aspiring Hut underpins the agreement financially as income from hut and camping is invested in the area’s huts and their management.  Financial benefits have included the renewals of French Ridge and Colin Todd huts, as Aspiring Hut earns more from hut fees than most other Club huts, thanks to its high use by both members and visitors to the area.

This background information is important, as any work the Club plans to do on Aspiring Hut will need to recognise this partnership with DOC and the wider implications of the place of the hut in the total West Matukituki Valley hut agreement.   The Club has a concession for the hut (and its other huts in the valley) until 2032 and the NZAC-DOC management agreement runs until 2033, with the objectives of sustaining the relationship, coordinated and integrated hut management, and the parties working in a manner to provide a sustainable network of huts.

Agreement with DOC is also important when we consider the funding of any work required.   The agreement account has accumulated approximately $150,000 from the income from the hut and DOC has approved in principle funding for earthquake strengthening work up to $300,000.  In addition, the Club is actively seeking further sources of funding to help with the project.

Why is Aspiring Hut important?

As well as the important financial contribution it makes to the NZAC funds, Aspiring Hut has a long history of supporting access to one of New Zealand’s most iconic mountain areas.   Aspiring Hut is in the West Matukituki Valley, close to the Mt Aspiring National Park boundary where Mt Aspiring/Tititea is first seen when travelling up the valley.   It provides overnight accommodation for those climbing or tramping further afield and is an overnight or daytrip destination for many.  Visitor numbers have been increasing steadily, with 3500 staying overnight in the 2017/18 summer season.  Last summer season, 2,600 stayed overnight, lower because of major storms and Covid.  Of this number, nearly 60% were from overseas.   Hut visitors today are varied. As well as climbers and trampers, there are family groups, backpackers, school groups, scouts, and mountaineer bikers.  One long standing user group is the Otago University Tramping Club, which has held winter bush balls there since the late 1970s.

What work is needed?

The Accommodation Committee’s Aspiring Sub-committee of John Cocks, Derek Crombie and Richard Wesley have worked with DOC for some time to complete significant initial research into the issues.   A structural assessment carried out by an engineering firm with expertise in masonry structures, identified the upgrade work necessary to meet building code load requirements. The work involves strengthening the roof trusses and purlins and upgrading the strapping between the roof trusses and the stone walls.   We will also need to carry out extensive repair or placement of wooden foundations, and replacement of deteriorating window frames.   This is the work which MUST be done and will need the hut to be closed for a season.   If planned well, the project will keep the historical aspects of the hut and should be able to be completed within the funds available.

But while we are carrying out that work, it makes sense to consider opportunities to make the hut work better for members’ use and for our visitors.   For example, we may like to consider making the bunkrooms smaller, similar to Unwin Lodge, insulating the walls or adding bike racks.  This is where you can make an important contribution.

Your contribution please

While the Accommodation Committee’s focus to date has been on the practical requirements of the upgrade, it is important that the Club’s members have an opportunity to contribute your views, suggestions and even your stories as we move into the next stage of planning.  Both the Accommodation Committee and the NZAC Board understand that there are many details which are unknown at this stage, so the focus of this information collected from members is on your “big picture” feedback.

What are the specific issues you would like to see considered as we plan the upgrade?   What are the features or services you’d like to see added, withdrawn or enhanced?   What suggestions do you have to increase the use and enjoyment of the Matukituki Valley by members or visitors and is there anything we could do which would mean that Aspiring Hut could play an even greater role?

Do you have a view on how the Club could better use Aspiring Hut as a base for climbing, training or even social activities?   And what are your thoughts on the balance between use by members and visitors?   And perhaps most importantly – is there anything you are concerned we may have forgotten in our planning to date?

If any of these questions spark your interest or concerns, please take a moment to simply email your comments to [email protected] , so that the Board of the New Zealand Alpine Club can make sure your views are part of the planning for the next steps.   It would be great if comments could be received by 24 August, so they could be considered at our next meeting.  But if not by that date, please get them to us as soon as possible.

We will, of course, keep members fully informed at the project progresses, but we do want to avoid missing an improvement opportunity by delaying communications until all the details are known.  However, if you do need further information to help with your feedback, contact Derek Crombie (027 279 0015) , John Cocks (027246 3918) or Richard Wesley (021 838 690).

Posted: 18/08/20

Posted By: Karen Leacock