Department of Conservation test hangar ahead of trip to Antipodes Islands

Department of Conservation staff Finlay Cox and Stephen Horn with the helicopter hanger bound for the Antipodes Islands ...
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ

Department of Conservation staff Finlay Cox and Stephen Horn with the helicopter hanger bound for the Antipodes Islands to house two helicopters being used for a mouse eradication operation.

A temporary helicopter hangar made a brief appearance in Invercargill this week as preparations for a mouse eradication project go up a gear.

The Department of Conservation staff erected the helicopter hangar in a city warehouse this week to test the structure ahead of their trip to the Antipodes Islands next year when conservation staff will undertake a mouse eradication campaign.

The hangar would provide shelter for two Squirrel helicopters used in the aerial application of bait during the project operation.

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Project leader Stephen Horn said it was a complicated build because of the manual situation down on the island.

"We don't have machinery down there. Normally these structures would be put up with cherry-pickers and people could lift up the frames with a a forklift."

It was important that the crew got things right ahead of their trip because they could not travel 900km to find out it did not work, he said.

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A landslide that occurred on the island last year meant that DOC staff would have to level an area for the hangar to be erected on.

"They're basically building a big dance floor, a massive platform and this temporary hangar will be bolted on to that platform."

There would be 38 intermediate bulk containers coming from the Dunedin City Council which would be filled up with water and provide the anchoring weight round the edge of the structure, Horn said.

The hangar setup was simple and complicated at the same time, he said.

"Normally these hangars are anchored on shipping containers but we can't do that and we can't pile into the ground because we want to move this thing as quickly as possible when we finish the job, so it's a floating platform."

DOC staff would put the frame up in March when the navy ship HMNZS Canterbury would head to the islands, Horn said.

"We're completely at the mercy of the weather. There's no harbours so the ship will be having to find shelter"

The hangar was similar to the tent used to house the baggage collection point at the Invercargill Airport, he said.

"It's the same company who has made it."

Auckland based company Simple Shelter custom built the hangar to DOC's specifications.

It was rated to handle winds up to 230 kilometres per hour, he said.

"The blades will be taken off the helicopters and they will be pulled in (to the hangar) by ropes."

They would finalise the set-up on a trip heading down at the end of May just before the eradication works starts, he said. 

Horn was unsure how long the operation on the island would take but they had planned for four months, he said.

 - Stuff

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