a OTMC Home Email OTMC

Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club - History
1983 - 1993

(This article updates those written by Ron Keen covering 1923-73, and Richard Pettinger covering 1973-83).

Following the highly successful 60th Anniversary celebrations, the Club continued to flourish. Much effort went into renovating the clubrooms in Stuart Street. After a long time sharing premises, it was good to have a place that was "ours", at least for the meantime.

A well supported Labour Weekend trip went to Ohau. Plans to raft the Taieri on inner tubes escalated and ended up with the Club booking out the commercial rafting operation for a whole weekend - 42 people participated. The year wound up with a memorable social at the Vollweiler farm near Lake Waihola.

The Christmas period was marked by a "traditional" Christmas camp, this time at the confluence of the Hopkins and Huxley Rivers. Up to 30 people were present at different times, with trips to the Richardson Glacier, Elcho valley and Rabbiters Peak. Two parties also made expeditions to the Olivines.

Bushcraft 84 followed the highly successful format introduced the previous year. The only hiccup was when a party in the Maitland took a wrong turn in poor visibility and ended up a day overdue.

The timing of Anzac Day on the Wednesday after Easter meant that Easter was a six day weekend - almost a contradiction in terms. A busload went to South Westland.

A vicious circle of problems finding leaders for day trips plus poor attendances, accentuated by an admitted lack of interest in day trips by a number of more active members, led to proposals to reduce their frequency to fortnightly or monthly. The committee took a more proactive approach and appointed a Day Trip Convener to take over responsibility from the Chief Guide. Before long this aspect of Club activity, which is important to beginner trampers and less active members, was up and running again. At the other end of the scale of Club activities, plans were put in place for a graduated programme of alpine instruction.

In one of the Club's more bizarre activities, 66 members and hangers on (this term is used advisedly) managed to get themselves onto a waterbed, thus setting an alleged world record and winning the waterbed, which was raffled.

The 1984 AGM saw the election of Don Greer as President and Nancy Munro as a Life Member. Nancy was reputed to have almost single handedly kept the Club running during World War 2, and had maintained her membership and an interest in the Club for the ensuing 40 years. Sadly the Club also lost a Life Member with the death of Bruce Campbell after he took ill on a Family Tramping Group trip on Flagstaff. Bruce's memory lives on with the rhododendron dell he planted on the Ben Rudd property.

Since it was apparent that our occupancy of the Stuart Street rooms would eventually run out as the Polytech gradually moved from the area, the first of several sub-committees was formed with a view to finding a more permanent home for the Club. Over the next few years, the various members of the committee looked at scores of buildings to buy or rent.

The Christmas trip followed the lead of 1982 with the Club investigating a proposed National Park. This time the destination was North West Nelson, and those who went were suitably impressed.

In February '85 a radical change in the production and format of the monthly Bulletin was made. The ageing and increasingly unreliable Gestetner was dispensed with, and the Bulletins appeared in A5 photocopied form. This enabled a lot more creativity to be used in layout, and allowed the use of graphics and illustrations.

Following an approach from a number of people from Balclutha, an affiliated group was formed in that area Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Don Greer, Michelle Metherell and others, it was short lived.

The Queens Birthday trip saw the most serious accident on a Club trip for some years. John Bevin fell while bouldering on the Hump Range and suffered a badly broken leg. A combination of favourable factors including good weather, an accessible location, the presence of 11 able bodied trampers, the medical knowledge of Graham Johnston and the very quick exit of Doug Forrester, meant John was in hospital within about 10 hours.

In July the announcement was made that a large block of land had been purchased in the central Silver Peaks for the formation of a reserve. This was great news for the Club which had fought hard to retain much of the area in a form suitable for tramping.

Mike Floate became President for 1985-86.

The Bushcraft final weekend which went to Fiordland, became an optional trip in order to keep the basic cost down. However it was found that many people who didn't intend to do this trip enjoyed the Course so much that they attended anyway. The Club joined with the OUTC in their annual pre-Easter river crossing instruction day.

A reflection of the Club's ongoing environmental concerns was the erection of a toilet at a mustering hut on the Old Woman Range. The hut is a favourite cross country ski venue.

The Stuart Street clubrooms gained a kindred sub-tenant in the Otago Section of the NZ Alpine Club.

A sub-committee considered the issue of life membership. In particular they looked at the tendency to award this honour to people of "advanced" age, and the possibility of deserving candidates missing out because they were unknown to the current active members. As a result, Richard Pettinger, Ken Mason and Bruce Mason, who had all been continuously active in the Club since the 1960s, were elected Life Members at the 1986 AGM. John Pohl was elected President. John Hamel resigned as Honorary Solicitor due to ill health and was succeeded by his son Antony. This continued a family association with the Club as John's father had been a founding member.

With slide shows forming a major part of Thursday night proceedings at the clubrooms, a modem magazine slide projector with a long throw lens and remote control was purchased.

In April 1987 we entered into discussion with the OUTC to finalise our occupation of the Big Hut on the Rock and Pillars. This hut had been built by the Otago Ski Club before they moved to Coronet Peak, and is an ideal base for cross country skiing.

Another topic of ongoing discussion was the firebreak track through the Ben Rudd property. This was upgraded when Telecom laid a fibre optic cable to Swampy, but we felt it exceeded the approval we had given. However the Club had to balance its wish to see the track revert to less of a landscape scar, against the prospect of an opportunity for access to enable the removal of the plantation on our property.

Spen Walker, when declining nomination for President at the 1986 AGM, had promised "next year and was duly elected in 1987.

The annual snowcaving trip had problems with the local authority and adjoining landowner in gaining access to the traditional site on the Old Man Range. This was to be the beginning of a battle involving the Ombudsman and FMC, with great dedication from many OTMC members. The battle was eventually won.

In February, a bicycle trip to Dunback attracted 14 riders, while Bushcraft was over subscribed.

April saw the end of our occupancy of 261 Stuart Street, as the building was to be demolished. We moved to premises in Dowling St and changed Club night to Monday. However both the premises and the day were less than ideal, and in July we moved to a church hall in Russell Street and reverted to Thursday night meetings.

In May the Club formally took over Big Hut for the princely sum of $300. On a sadder note, historic Green Hut, which had long been a target for vandals, was damaged beyond repair. It was demolished between 13 and 15 July 1988, just over 65 years from its opening.

The Club also decided that 25 Mile Hut was too far from Dunedin for us to maintain, and too close to the road to get much use by our members. Accordingly it was offered, without success, to the Wakatipu and Central Otago Tramping Clubs.
The 1988-89 President was David Peacock. Under h|6 leadership a contract was finally let for harvesting the Ben Rudd plantation. The trees were removed over Christmas, and work began on restoring the site to a state compatible with the adjacent reserve.

The Bushcraft Ohau trip, with over 60 people on it, encountered floods. Virtually the entire trip was a day overdue, with only those in the Temple reaching the road on the Sunday. It was certainly a valuable learning experience for those involved.

Stuart Mathieson was elected to the presidency at the 1989 AGM. As was often the case, the Ben Rudd property was a topic for discussion, following a controversial proposal that the property be disposed of. It was agreed that work would continue on restoring the area to a natural state.

On the 4th of November 1989, after numerous attempts and a certain amount of ribbing, Doug Forrester finally stood atop Mt Aspiring.

In February, Social Convener Elspeth Gold scored a great coup. Sir Edmund Hillary was to be in Dunedin as Festival Week guest. Elspeth rang the DCC and invited him round for a "cuppa" on the Thursday. He couldn't make Thursday, so at very short notice a Monday function was arranged. The clubrooms were packed to hear an informal address by the much admired climber, followed by the promised "cuppa".

On the 22nd March 1990, a Special General Meeting approved the purchase of the former TAB building at 3 Young Street, St Kilda for $45 000. Those who had been looking at numerous buildings throughout the city were convinced that we got a bargain. It did require some work to bring it up to scratch, including the installation of an Oregon beam to support the roof where a partition was demolished, but under Peter Mason's supervision it was quickly transformed to a superb facility. With its map walls, historical displays, facilities for projecting slides and prints, library and gear hire areas, it is an ideal base for our Club. It is also being used by the Alpine Club, Antarctic Society and other outdoor related organisations. An official opening was held on 21 June 1990, with Life Member Marie McDonald and husband Gordon officiating.

In June, the first of a number of tracks on the Otago Peninsula was established or identified by the Otago Peninsula Walkers. This group, which included a number of Club members, was heartened by the attendance of over 400 people at the occasion. Later, a well attended public meeting saw Elspeth Gold and Neil Donaldson included in a DCC working party looking at improving walking opportunities on the Peninsula.

Also in June, Club members called out for Search and Rescue in the Taieri Gorge were pleased with their efforts in locating the missing person safe and well until they were told he wasn't overdue!

The 1990 AGM saw the election of Elspeth Gold as President, while a subsequent Special General Meeting constituted a "Ben Rudd's Fund" whereby the money received from the trees, plus interest, could be used only for work on the property. This was to allay concerns that the money would be used, and the Club would later find itself with a major cost for weed clearing.

The cross country skiers had a good season. The Central Otago District Council finally announced that the Waikaia Bush Road on the Old Man Range would "not normally be dosed in winter". And a well supported, week long, cross country ski camp was held in the South Hector Mountains.

At the other end of the scale, a large party walked the Milford Track during Anzac weekend after the season was closed. This tramp, titled the Droflim since it was walked in the opposite direction from normal, and finishing with a crossing of Dore Pass, has become a bit of a Club legend.

Elspeth Gold became the first President in many years to do two consecutive terms in office. Unfortunately this period was made difficult for the committee by an ongoing disagreement over tactics and personalities involved in environmental/access politics. Despite strenuous attempts by the committee to mediate and find a peaceful solution, the situation culminated in the resignation of Life Member Bruce Mason.

On a brighter note, the first National Walk Week, organised by FMC, was run in March. The Club organised well supported walks on the Otago Peninsula.

Antony Pettinger was the 1992-93 President, and the Club moved into the electronic age with the purchase of a computer for use by the Secretary, Treasurer and Editor.

The Christmas trip was a well supported rafting expedition to the Clarence River.

The Club was saddened by the tragic death of Mary Clark after a fall on a Club day trip to the Catlins. Mary's death is believed to be the only fatality on a Club trip in its 70 year history.

As the Club moves into its eighth decade, I believe it continues to fulfill all its major expectations - to provide a variety of trips for people with a variety of levels of experience, to provide a social environment for people with a love of our country's wild and scenic places, and to work for the continued protection and availability of those places.
Roll on the next 70 years!

David Barnes

 

  The Early Years (1923 - 30) - The Thirties - The War Years and the Post War Renaissance - The Fifties - The Fortieth Anniversary Celebrations - The Sixties - The Early Seventies - 1973/83 - 1983/93 - 1993/2003

This site copyright 1999/2010 Antony Pettinger. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the OTMC Committee or other OTMC Members.