Canberra based volunteers of the Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA) are concerned history “will slip through our fingers” because of the inability to rebuild historic huts destroyed in the 2020 Orroral Valley Bushfires.
Namadgi National Park’s Demandering and Max & Berts huts were severely burnt in the fires, but KHA vice president Anthony Hunter said an ACT Parks and Conservation regime doesn’t allow volunteers to replace them.
“Under the regime ACT Parks work under, Notre Dame wouldn’t be rebuilt because it would be too badly damaged,” he said.
“That has led to the huts getting down to such low levels, and we are increasingly concerned that it will slip through our fingers.
“When the huts aren’t replaced, people don’t go into those areas and the stories that go with the lives of the people who built and lived there fade from the public memory.”
Upwards of 20 huts are scattered across Namadgi National Park built as early as the 1800s, many of which are along the Bicentennial Trail and tell the story of non-Indigenous people in the region.
Many of the huts are used by bushwalkers and riders as temporary shelter and rest stops, rangers in the national parks or just visited by locals and tourists.
The volunteer organisation has written to both ACT major parties and has been rallying for the policy to change.
“We are lobbying the ACT Government to reflect upon to policy and have a change at heart,” Mr Hunter said.
“We had seen a number of huts not replaced or being replaced with interpretative shelters which we don’t think is a suitable response.
“Neither of [the major parties] would commit to a rebuild of the huts and the current government talk about and used heritage works around restorations but they never mention the word rebuild.”
The organisation is now hoping a petition through its members and the community will help in its fight to rebuild the historic huts.
An Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate spokesperson denied the huts would definitely not be rebuilt.
“No decision has been made regarding the rebuilding of the huts destroyed during the 2020 fire,” they said.
“The value of these huts is recognised. They provided shelter for stockmen in the ACT’s high country and are remnants of our early pastoral history.
“In determining the next steps related to the sites of the huts, we will work with all relevant stakeholders, including the National Parks Association, the Kosciuszko Huts Association and ACT Heritage Council, so that those values are acknowledged and protected.”