The huts in the high country 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. Many of these huts have been lost through fire and decay, but around120 of them still remain. These are now cared for co-operatively by KHA and the Park Services.
It wasn't always so. This potted history, gleaned from our KHA Newsletters over the years, will give you some insight into the formation of KHA, the early struggles to ensure that the huts survived, and KHA's achievements and disappointments over the past 30 years or so. For Namadgi History, go here.
Kosciuszko National Park
Before the park.
Prior to the establishment of State and National Parks in the alpine areas, leaseholders maintained or modified the huts to meet their needs at the time. There is no system of huts in the high country, even though in 1944 the Mayor of Albury took up Dr Herbert Schlink's recommendation for a chain of huts throughout the mountains.
1967 The park gazetted
With the establishment of the Parks, groups who had an active walking and skiing interest looked after many huts. This led to the Kosciuszko State Park Trust convening a meeting in January 1965 to discuss the future of huts in the area. The formation of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in 1967, the Service was obliged by Act of Parliament to look after the built heritage. Before this time several huts, including Betts Camp, were removed along the summit road. There were threats from the wilderness movement to get rid of huts and other signs of man in the park.
In 1970, Neville Gare, Superintendent of the then Kosciuszko State Park, called a meeting to discuss huts in the Park. Seventy-four people sat through six hours of discussion enabling the following motion to be passed:
"That an Association tentatively to be named the Kosciusko Huts Association be formed and an interim committee be elected."
A small committee produced the first huts list, an information booklet on the huts "Notes for caretakers of shelter huts". By 1974 33 huts were listed with 25 caretaker groups. In the meantime a ranger burnt down at least one hut, and the fear of NPWS' real intent grew stronger.
1976 First hut lost
Natural forces of snow and wind destroyed Windy Creek hut, and in 1976 a letter was received from the Superintendent of KNP stating that "approval will not be given for the addition of any new huts for the survival system" A wilderness advocate argues in KHA's newsletter that "huts are alien to wilderness, the argument of huts for safety is spurious and if they are removed then those that enter either survive or perish, which is what wilderness is all about." Less than two years later two lost girls sheltered overnight in Four-Mile Hut. It may have saved their lives. Another hut, Moulds, was destroyed in mysterious circumstances in 1976. A ranger was implicated in its destruction by fire.
In 1977 KHA organised the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the first ski crossing from Kiandra to Kosciusko. 150 people skied over the old route.
By that time , the membership of KHA had grown to over 300. In this period the focus of historical research was on the people, the stockmen and the skiers. Much oral history was gathered.
1979 Huts threatened, some removed
In 1979 NPWS issued a draft huts policy. Its threat to the huts provoked a huge public response. KHA energies were totally absorbed in the fight to have the draft modified so that there was a more sympathetic attitude to huts. NPWS recommended the removal of all huts in the summit area (except Seamans), and within the White's River Corridor (except Disappointment Spur and a refurbished White's River hut), plus the demolition of O'Keefes, Grey Hill Café and Tangangara.
A huge public outcry and a media campaign prevented this happening; 'almost', two huts Albina and Rawsons, became the sacrificial lambs.
The Burra Charter
The Burra charter was drafted at the historic mining town of Burra in South Australia on 18th August 1979, which ensured the development of a conservation philosophy in Australia. The ICONOMOS charter defines a historic site and how it should be conserved and maintained. A new era of liaison was entered into with NPWS staff, and conservation plans for huts were inaugurated to guide caretakers.
In 1981 KHA installed two life members, Paddy Pallin and Ted Winter. Ted's book "Mountain Verse" was published by KHA. A colour feature film on the huts was commissioned. Other home movies were copied by KHA, including footage of the construction of some of the Geehi huts that were built of river stone. Funding from the Heritage Council of NSW enabled KHA to begin the Kosciusko National Park Historic Sites Project.
1982 (non) Management Plan and Hueneke's 'Huts of the High Country'
1982 saw the release of a new management plan for KNP, which still avoids revision, excepting its relation to ski resorts. "Huts of the High Country" which became the "bible" of many walkers and skier in the mountains was written and published by Klaus Hueneke. Constances Hut was accidentally destroyed by fire, leaving a gap in the safety net of huts in this area. Proposals to replace this vital shelter slowly gathered momentum.
Membership peaked in 1983 at about 500. The quarterly newsletter grew in size and quality, from sheets copied on a Gestetner machine in 1971 to a 24 page, quality printed magazine with photos, in the 1990's. It is a renowned voice of the High Country.
The annual General Meeting was held in Canberra for the first time in 1984. NPWS completed major work on Delaney's hut, one of the most used and abused huts in the Park because of its proximity to a sealed road. A huge project, restoring the Coolamine Homesteads was funded by an Australian Heritage Commission grant. It was one of the biggest restoration projects undertaken in 30 years.
In 1986, a proposal was submitted to NPWS to replace Constances Hut , Dr Phillips hut was removed and Montagues destroyed by fire.
Several new sub-committees were formed in 1987, including the Historic and Sydney group. A big increase in the number of caretaker groups enabled an upsurge in the conservation of huts.
In the summer of 1988 Cool Plain and Slaughterhouse huts burned in a wildfire. Another, Happys escapes with a singeing. As a result, KHA stepped up negotiations for fuel reduction programmes around huts. NPWS approved major works at Currango. Bill Jones hut, in the same area was saved from demolition. The NSW Premier accused NPWS of "being unreasonably obstructive for years we have had constipated development" (for ski resorts ?) and KHA expressed concern to the Minister about accelerated development within the Park.
Namadgi huts join KHA
The huts in Namadgi National Park in the ACT came under the umbrella of KHA with the appointment of a Huts Maintenance Officer (HMO). Namadgi Conservation work was carried out on ACT Forests and Franks Huts and a survey of all the huts in Namadgi National Park was undertaken.
KHA now had three Huts Maintenance Officers covering the North and South of Kosciusko and Namadgi.
Cooinbil received approval from NPWS for restoration in 1989. A stabilisation policy was approved with Teddys Hut being the first structure to benefit. The approval to begin construction of a shelter adjacent to Constances Hut was implemented.
1990 Burrungabugge Hut built
Burrungubuggee Hut was completed and officially opened in November 1990. Cooinbil's reconstruction continued. The centenary of the Kiandra Courthouse was celebrated with a "Back to Kiandra" to which KHA contributed. While in Namadgi KHA volunteers assisted National Parks Association members in the restoration of Orroral homestead.
In 1991 KHA lost it's patron and mentor, Paddy Pallin. In the same year ACT Parks and Conservation approved the conservation of Brayshaws and Westermans homesteads. National Parks and Wildlife Foundation gave a grant of $3000 towards conservation studies and KHA contributed to the first symposium on the Cultural Heritage of the Australian Alps. Dick Smith became Patron of KHA.
Work began on the conservation of Brayshaw's Homestead a traditional slab hut in the southern extremity of Namadgi National Park. A ten year project restoring Tin Mine barn was completed by Illawarra Alpine Club. Some years earlier this club had restored Cascade Hut.
1992 ACT Parks destroys Orroral while the Australian Navy helps repair Pretty Plain
Just when it was thought the huts were safe, in 1992 ACT Parks and Conservation approved of the destruction of the 1950's farmhouse at Orroral. They also removed the brick shelter on Tower Ridge behind Honeysuckle Creek. The Australian Navy flew in logs for Pretty Plain hut using a Sikorski Seahawk helicopter in a training exercise that solved a major maintenance problem for KHA.
Historical interpretive signage was erected during an official ceremony at the homestead site of John and Rachael Bolton at Diggers Creek in February 1993. 150 descendants and friends of the Bolton family attended a reunion held at Daveys Hut on Snowy Plain. Many oral interviews about the social history of the Mountains were gathered and published in several book by members of KHA, including;
* "If That Man Comes Here I'll Shoot Him"
* " People of the Australian High Country"
* " Old Currango"
* "If I Wake in the Middle of the Night"
Old tools and techniques workshop held at Lockers' Happy Valley, Adaminaby, and ski making workshops held. NPWS obtained $90,000 from the Federal Heritage Assistance Program for conservation works on Currango Homestead.
New huts proposed!
The KHA AGM passed a motion that the KHA constitution should include the following aim:- "to assist with the building of new huts where and when appropriate." This motion generated vigorous, passionate and instructive debate.
At Cooinbil, Harry Hill hosted the celebration of its conservation in 1994. Rowleys (sometimes spelt Rolly's) Orroral hut burnt down on 13th July; Graham Scully (and others ) burst into tears.
A grant was obtained for finishing the chimney at Brayshaws and for the conservation of Westermans homestead, a weatherboard homestead right on the ACT/NSW border. Another grant was received to enable Matthew Higgins to draw up a cultural site map for Namadgi to facilitate nominations to the Interim Heritage Register of the ACT.
In 1995 - Klaus Hueneke placed four indexed volumes of Kosciusko Oral History in the National Library. A photograph archive was instigated and pursued in earnest, to date it has amassed over 1,000 prints of huts from the 1890's to the present day. This is an awesome historic collection.
NPWS allocated more resources and staff time to hut restoration. Harris Hut burnt in 1996, after a log rolled out of the fireplace, the saddest end to a romantic homestead of fascinating construction.
NPWS re-positioned Matthews Hut at Kiandra and planned future restoration. Charles Warner produced a new edition of the Huts List. Stoves were installed in some huts by NPWS. The successful conservation of Brayshaw's Homestead was celebrated by holding an open day on the site. It was a great day.
1997 major conservation works commence
Major conservation began on Westermans, Millers, Happys, Wheelers, Max and Berts, Witses and Four-Mile huts in 1997. Ten Namadgi huts were placed on the Interim ACT Heritage Places Register. Gooandra's conservation was progressing.
Newsletter No: 100 was a special edition in 1998 with a colour cover and a centrefold of 10 huts saved and 7 huts lost. Broken Dam, a hut that held a special place in the hearts of many KHA members, was burnt. This loss has been a watershed for KHA, yet despite vigorous lobbying, no approval has been given for a replacement shelter. The continuation of a "no replacement huts" policy may mean we may have no huts in 50 years time.
In 1999 Robert Pallin agreed to be Patron of KHA - a circle was completed. The newly constructed NPWS Visitor Centre at Jindabyne placed a strong emphasis on history and heritage. KHA once again met with NPWS to discuss the replacement of Broken Dam Hut. An open day was held at Westerman's to celebrate the completion of this project. Over 50 people, including members of the Curtis, Oldfield, Luton and Kennedy families attended.
In 2000 KHA put out a media release "Kosciuszko says NO to mountain shelter hut." The photographic exhibition organised by Jim and Shirley Hart went on public display at Namadgi Visitors Centre.
In 2001 KHA celebrated its 30th Anniversary with an Annual General Meeting at Sawpit Creek, where the original meeting took place. Many old and new faces attended.
2003 catastrophic bushfire disaster destroys 24 huts, KHA pushes for rebuilds
In 2003 KHA saw its worst disaster, with 45 bushfires burning across the Park destroying areas that had not been burnt in living memory, and 24 huts as well. Many huts that had not seen regular maintenance such as Gavels and Hains saw major workparties. KHA began to lobby the bureaucrats in particular Mr Tony Flemming to allow replacement huts to be rebuilt, in particular Borken Dam.
2004 New Plan of Managemant, a formal Huts Conservatinf Strategy and hut rebuilds
In 2003 and 2004 KHA had spent considerable time with the NPWS Community Forum, influencing the development of a new Plan of Management which was released in draft on 15 May 2004.
In 2007 commencement of the re-construction of some of the huts, approved under the new Plan of Management commenced. The first two huts rebuilt were Delaneys and Patons.
In 2008 work on the reconstruction of O'Keefes, Opera House and Brookes were undertaken. Repairs to the chimney on Sawyers Hill were also commenced and not a moment too late, as the building had been surrounded by a wire fence for more than two years. Boobees reconstruction has been completed, and Pretty Plain reconstruction will be finished in March 2010.
History compiled by Pauline Downing, Klaus Hueneke, Olaf Moon and Graham Scully.
A Short History of Namadgi
The area of the ACT now known as Namadgi National Park was first explored in 1820 and opened to pastoralism in the 1830s.
The first licensed property was William Herbert's Orroral run, gazetted in 1836, followed soon after by James Ritchie's claim to Bobeyan in the Naas Valley, which was taken up by John Gray in 1838.
By the late 1840's, land in all the valleys had been gazetted, and with the Land Acts of 1860's and 80's, even greater numbers of people and stock came to settle in the region. Some parts of these mountain valleys have been farmed by generations of the same families. Their certainty of freehold tenure came to an end in 1901 when all land within the boundary of the newly proclaimed Federal (Later Australian) Capital Territory became Crown land. With the declaration of the Gudgenby Nature Reserve in 1979, followed by the Namadgi National Park in 1984 and extensions in 1991, all farming ceased.
Structures of all kinds, from the temporary bark shelters of the earliest pioneers, through slab or mud huts to weatherboard and fibro cottages surrounded by outbuildings and yards, were all once represented here.
KHA, in collaboration with the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, have identified over 90 sites where structures once stood. Few remain. Of the larger homestead complexes, a few have a single building still standing, but most are represented by a crumble of chimney stones or rusting pieces of corrugated iron. Gudgenby and Tennent are the only intact complexes that remain. What KHA knows of these 90 sites is summarised in our Hut List - which is available to members of KHA.
The huts listed below, are representative of the more frequently visited structures in the Namadgi National Park - Orroral Homestead, Rendezvous Creek, Frank and Jack's Hut, Hospital Ck, Demandering, Horse Gully, Brayshaws, Westermans, Waterhole, Pryors and Mt Franklin.
Namadgi History prepared by Babette Scougall.