DoC to pull gas from Tararua huts

PIERS FULLER
Last updated 11:48 18/07/2012

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Tararua hut users will no longer be cooking with gas - well, not unless they cart in their own supplies.

One of the luxuries of modern hut accommodation has been the introduction of gas cookers in five of the most popular huts on the Wairarapa side of Tararua Forest Park, but the Department of Conservation is pulling all the cookers out over the spring-summer period.

Kuranui Outdoor Education Academy manager Glenn Beach regularly takes school groups into the mountains and he says the removal of gas facilities will not just be an inconvenience but could also be a safety issue.

He says that though he understands DOC has to cut costs, but in some circumstances gas on tap could be a lifesaver. For tramping groups like his, knowing they had the ability to instantly heat up a brew if someone were to become hypothermic, was a great comfort.

A lack of gas facilities will also mean heavier loads for his students carting in their own stoves and gas canisters.

"If it is a burly first XV boy, then weight is not such an issue, but when it is a 10-year-old skinny kid, an extra kilo is a lot," he says.

Mr Beach also says the hut gas systems are much safer and more stable to use and when there are several inexperienced young people cooking on unstable primus stoves with flammable gas canisters in a confined space this is an important safety aspect to consider.

DOC Wairarapa area manager, Chris Lester, says they have been considering removing the gas facilities for several years due to the high cost and they believe they can get better value by putting the money elsewhere.

"We are being asked to do more with less.

''If you look at my Wairarapa budget for this year, it has not reduced from last year but it has not increased either. That means that inflation, salary increases, all that sort of stuff has to be absorbed within my current financial planning pool," he says.

It costs more than $20,000 a year to supply all the huts with gas and DOC says all the facilities are becoming worn out and will need replacing in the coming year, which is going to be a further cost of $7000 for each site.

"It is not a particularly efficient service. It is high cost and we believe we can provide better outcomes for the money that we are currently spending on the gas provisions," he says.

He also says that some people have been using the gas stoves to heat the huts instead of using the woodburners provided.

Regular tramper John Rhodes is glad that the gas cooking facilities are getting pulled out.

He says it is wasteful of fossil fuels to airlift gas in by helicopter, and all trampers in the hills should be able to take their own small stove.

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- Wairarapa News

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