Alpine hut a hit for volunteers

Lee Mackay from Auckland has come down to volunteer in Fiordland once a year for the past several years. PHOTO: Toby Jones

The promise of a helicopter ride and a week in a beautiful alpine hut means DOC has had no problems recruiting volunteers to look after its popular Luxmore Hut over the winter.

The Great Walks season closed this month in Fiordland. While the Department of Conservation (DOC) has turned off the gas, lights and running water to its most popular huts, one gets a little extra attention over the winter, thanks to growing visitor demand.

DOC supervisor for recreation/historic Pania Dalley said the Department had entered its fourth year running a unique programme where volunteers help maintain the Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track, near Te Anau. Every Monday a small group of volunteers is flown up to the hut, where they stay for a week keeping the hut tidy, collecting hut fees and assisting visitors.

Ms Dalley said winter visitor numbers to the hut had been increasing, prompting a trial programme four years ago to meet demand. 

While there were Fiordlanders who had become regular volunteers, Ms Dalley said some volunteers came out from as far as Auckland and Tauranga. 

Luxmore Hut along the Kepler Track Great Walk in Fiordland. PHOTO: DOC

Finding volunteers over the winter season had never been a problem since the programme's launch, so much so that they had even created a waiting list in case an opening filled up.

"One woman said that she's done three years now and she would like to make space for somebody else."

Feedback from volunteers had been overwhelmingly positive, she said. As far as Ms Dalley could tell, the programme would continue on for winters to come but there were no plans to extend the idea to other Great Walks huts in Fiordland. 

"The couple that were up there last week, I got an email within half an hour of them flying down. He just said that they had such a fantastic time, that the support was really great, and they would absolutely love to be included on the list next year."


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