SURVIVAL AND MAINTAINANCE OF THE MOUNTAIN HUTS

The cancellation of the Kosciuszko alpine grazing leases in the 1960's, with the departure of the mountain cattlemen, coincided with the marked increase in the numbers of bushwalkers and skiers using the mountain huts. After the snow leases served by Mawsons Hut were cancelled in 1963, the Exclusive Squirrel Ski Touring Club commenced looking after that hut. However, few of the other huts were being maintained until the Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA) was founded in 1970. Since then over forty groups, clubs and individuals have volunteered to maintain the Kosciuszko huts through the KHA. Work has included everything from general cleaning, collecting fallen branches from the forest floor and cutting dead timber for firewood, to major structural repairs.

The NSW Government compulsorily acquired the AAC managed Lake Albina lodge in 1969. Sections of the conservation movement queried the very existence of huts above the snowline. Some of the huts were in a poor condition before their maintenance was taken over by caretaker groups and the KHA. One such hut was Moulds Hut located near Spencers Peak, about 9km ENE of Mt Jagungal. Although the exterior renovated hut was painted in 'park brown', aluminium sheeting had been used internally to seal the hut against draughts and moisture ingress. In February 1976 the hut was deliberately set on fire and destroyed.

Alpine hut, a ski touring hut extensively used in the 1940's and early 1950's (please see the Second Installment of this series), was allowed to burn down in 1979 and Constances Hut was destroyed by fire in 1984. Rawsons Hut, whose condition in 1982 was assessed as fair internally and structurally sound, sympathetically located in a very sheltered position beside the headwaters of the Snowy River at the northern end of Etheridge Range, was demolished.

Acting on the adopted Plan of Management for the Kosciuszko National Park, Lake Albina Lodge which provided a base for Main Range skiing (Photo No. 39), was burnt down in March 1983 by Park workmen. The Park Helicopter removed metal (such as roofing tiles) that had survived the fire. What was in 1969, the best equipped and best managed Main Range lodge, had been allowed to degenerate into an alpine slum through lack of routine maintenance. Following the demolition of Lake Albina Lodge, the Illawong Ski Tourers seemed to be the next in line for demolition, particularly when advised by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service that "The position is that occupation on a caretaker basis by the Illawong Ski Tourers of the Illawong Lodge has been approved until 31 December, 1985, but not beyond and no negotiations concerning tenure beyond that date are in progress or will be entertained."

Prior to 1985, part of the boundary of the Kosciuszko National Park was located about 5km east of Mount Jagungal on the crest of the Munyang Range at about 1700 metres elevation. The Snowy Plains, with clumps of trees separated by broad grassed areas, exist to the east of this former boundary and slope gently down to the Gungarlin River at 1400m elevation some 8km further to the east. This ideal ski touring land was privately owned freehold land zoned Rural 7c and was mostly used for stock grazing from Spring to Autumn each year. Portions 35 and 36 Parish of Gungarlin were owned by Bryan Haig, a keen cross-country skier and a past president of the ACT Ski Council, who lived on the property for much of the year and hosted other keen ski tourers in his home, which was called Bogong Lodge (Photo No. 40).

The AAC and some other ski clubs were most interested in constructing a few small huts on Block 36 for ski touring and bushwalking purposes. In December 1984 the retiring NSW Minister for Planning and Environment, Mr Terry Sheahan, approved the compulsory resumption of Bryan Haig's Block 36 by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to allow its incorporation into the Kosciuszko National Park. This action was confirmed (by telegram dated 18 January 1985) by the incoming Minister, Mr Bob Carr.

Minister dated 21 January 1985) that Bogong Lodge, Bryan Haig's home overlooking the Snowy Plains, be retained as a shelter for ski tourers, to be administered by a committee of management consisting of ski clubs and governmental agencies (such as the NPWS and the NSW Department of Planning and Environment) with an annual rental being paid to the NSW State Government and with Bryan Haig initially acting as caretaker,.

All the events summarized in this section of the Eighth Installment, represented the end of the 1950 dream of the Ski Tourers' Association that had driven it to establish a chain of huts across the NSW Alps. Henceforth, it was apparent that the Australian Alpine Club could only build huts in established ski villages, because even dwellings on freehold land were no longer safe from compulsory acquisition and subsequent demolition.