By Steve Cuff
The Kosciuszko National Park is one of the flagship parks of NSW and Australia, home to Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko (2228m) and hosts significant heritage listed buildings and huts.
Scattered throughout the high country, the Kosciuszko Huts were built by stockmen, prospectors, recreational fishermen, skiers and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to meet their accommodation, shelter, recreational and hydrology needs at the time.
Over decades, many huts have been lost through fire and decay, but around 120 of them still remain across the whole region. These are now cared for co-operatively by Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA) and the NPWS.
Yarrangobilly Caves precinct also have heritage listed buildings including the immaculately restored Caves House.
When fires roared through the mid areas of Kosciuszko National Park this past week, many of these huts succumbed to fire, some were saved and a heroic feat of 36 hours of fire fighting at Yarrangobilly saved that precinct.
Scott Davis, a NPWS officer from Tumut recorded how he and his fellow team saved Yarrangobilly buildings. You can see three videos below of those feats where, when under fire threat staff retreated to the South Glory Cave.
Commencing back burning, they also returned to Caves House to ensure it was saved. Compelling footage.
The history and heritage of each hut is something that cannot be replaced. After the 2003 bushfires huts were rebuilt, and again they will need to be replaced after being burned.
The NPWS staff all have great affection for these huts and are devatsted at what they now see. They have tried valiantly to save huts, by wrapping them with foil to protect against the heat. Consider these huts are in very remote locations only accessed by fire trails and the enormity of the task becomes clear.
NPWS Director Mick Pettitt observes the destruction. PHOTO: ABC News / Matt Roberts.
In this time of unpredictable fire behaviour, staff have accessed huts to try and save them, as with Valentines Hut (pictured re hut) to the north of Guthega and Schlink Pass.
They will try and wrap Wheelers Hut and Gooandra as well. Wheelers Hut has recently been resorted by NPWS staff and Kosciuszko Huts Association members who have devoted countless hours of hard work to keep this heritage alive. Broken Dam survived with staff putting dozer rings around where they can.
Bradleys and O’Briens Hut on the road from Cabramurra to Khancoban was burnt. Tim O’Brien from Tumbarumba said today he had taken his father to see the hut in the past four months, plus captured photos of the hut with his dad. Tim said his family and the Bailey family built the hut.
In Tumbarumba today, Tim faces his own fire threat as the Green Valley and Dunns Road fires could merge. His Boggy Creek property has been untouched so far, but the next two days are real threats.
So far we estimate huts lost are, Delaney, Sawyers Rest House, Happy, Brook, Wolgal, Kiandra Court House, Pattison’s Hut, Mathews, Round Mountain, Bradley and O’Brien’s and 4 mile. There are aerial photos showing Brooks still standing, so we assume that it is severely burnt.
We can only hope that the fires are contained and that we don’t lose any more huts.
The Selwyn Snow Resort has also been destroyed when fires swept through the resort and Cabramurra, where Snowy Hydro buildings were also lost. Temperatures recorded on the day were 63 degrees.
Kiandra Precinct, on the Snowy Mountains Highway has been savaged by fire and all buildings including the heritage listed Kiandra Courthouse gone.
The Kiandra area was the home of skiing in Australia and a thriving gold rush town. By March 1860, 10,000 prospectors from all parts of the globe were scouring the district in search of gold. Within 18 months the rush had moved on, leaving only a few hundred diggers, including a substantial number of Chinese.
In the winter of 1861 Scandinavian miners introduced snow shoeing (skiing) to Australia. Over the following years ski races were held annually on Township Hill at Kiandra and Australia’s first ski club was established.
See map of huts here on KHA website
A barren burnt landscape and the remains of a hut. PHOTO: ABC News / Matt Roberts.
Sawyers Hill hut on the road to Kiandra destroyed. PHOTO: ABC News / Matt Roberts.