DOC today confirmed at least two huts have been destroyed by earthquake related slips and activity and a number of other sites have suffered serious damage.
DOC National Operations Director Martin Kessick said staff have begun the process of checking high priority sites and structures in a number of areas affected by Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake and the numerous aftershocks since then.
DOC has advised visitors to stay away from tracks and huts on public conservation land in the Kaikoura and South Marlborough regions until they have been fully assessed, damage repaired and cleared for use.
More than 170 DOC high priority tracks and structures have been visually inspected by air or ground in the past 48 hours in the Eastern South Island region (including north Canterbury) and southern Marlborough, in the Northern South Island Region.
“We can confirm two huts in backcountry Kaikoura have been destroyed. Both Barratts Hut and Barratts Bivvy were swept away in a large slip and both are buried,” Martin Kessick confirmed. Both huts are in a remote area, are small and have low use.
At another site in the Clarence Reserve the historic Quail Flat Cobb House, the Bunkhouse and Bakers Oven have been badly damaged.
Kowhai Hut on the Hapuku River has suffered some damage and a number of sites are still at risk from further damage by slips and rockfalls such as Snowgrass Hut, South Bay, Okiwi Bay campsite, Kowhai/Hapuku Route and Blind Saddle Road.
“It’s unlikely anyone was in these huts. There have been no reports of unaccounted for hikers or visitors and no abandoned vehicles unaccounted for,” he said.
DOC staff have used helicopters to do aerial checks of the tracks and huts initially, and where safe and possible some sites have been checked by ground but it will be some days until we have fuller information,” Martin Kessick says.
The Fox River tourist cave on the West Coast has been closed by DOC staff after discovering a large rock fall over the entrance during priority site checks. This site will be closed until remediation work can take place.
“Initially our staff in the most severely impacted areas were fully engaged in the regional Civil Defence response following the earthquake. We are ensuring those staff who have been working on the earthquake response will be relieved by staff, from outside the area who are ready to move in to assist,” he said.
The huts destroyed or damaged are either standard or basic huts which are not bookable.