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Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Residential—18-22 January 2016

January 23, 2016

CUE Haven has a different look after this week’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award (DoEHA) residential.  This was the sixteenth gold award residential at CUE Haven and in spite of unusually hot weather the team accomplished amazing things.

The group arrived on Monday morning and included Abigail, Brian, Britney, Brooke, Isabella, Kanj, Mckenzie, Melissa, Rayman and Tayla.  Abinaya and Ellis, had completed their DoEHA gold award residential at CUE Haven last year and it was great having them back as team leaders.


We got acquainted over morning tea and gave the participants an overview of the CUE Haven project, the planned work for the week and a safety briefing.


We then went for a short tour of the property to give the participants a better feel for the project and the work they would be doing.  While on the walk, the wet and windy weather we had been promised closed in but that did not dampen the students’ enthusiasm.


Tasks for the week included building a big double bench and six single benches, doing general maintenance and weeding along the roads and walking tracks, carving a new totem pole for one of the walking track entrances and walking track maintenance.  Throughout the week, people moved among different groups so everyone had a chance to experience different projects.

Because Monday afternoon turned out to be windy and rainy we decided to start with the building projects that could be done in the nursery.  The group broke into smaller teams to work on benches, the double bench and the totem pole.


Totem Pole

DoEHA teams have built a number of walking tracks at CUE Haven and they have marked the entrances to the tracks with totem poles carved with designs developed by each team.  This week the group carved a new pole and painted two other poles that previous teams had carved.

The first task was to come up with a design.  The team chose stylised koru as a theme.


Once the design was drawn on the pole, the carving could be started.



The entire pole was then painted red and the carved areas were painted in white.




In order to highlight the carved areas, the team ingeniously outlined them with bits of fence wire left over from the days when CUE Haven was a farm.


Once the work was finished it was time to install the totem pole in the field. The team loaded it on to the ute and we took it to the installation site.


The new pole would be installed at the entry to the walking track. There was already a pole there that had been carved and installed by a previous team but not painted, so this team took up their paint and brushes and finished the job.


Meanwhile Andy showed the others how to use the post hole digger to dig the hole for the new pole.



Once the loose dirt was cleared from the hole, the pole was cemented in place.


The new totem pole is a great addition to another entrance to the walking track.


And the design team should be very proud of their creative efforts and hard work.



Double Bench

The area in front of the CUE Haven cottage has been landscaped and we have installed some educational native bird and tree signs that were designed by Unitec graphic design students. We asked the group to build some benches in order to enable visitors to enjoy this space.

We decided on two small single benches and a big double sided bench.  We gave the participants the design and dimensions and they split into two smaller teams and set to work.

One team tackled the double bench.  The first challenge was to study the design and decide how to cut out the timber frames.


The team worked out the dimensions and determined the timber requirements.


Thomas showed them how to use the power saws and supervised the work.



The key to the double bench was the A frame that would provide the support for the structure and the team worked to get the angles just right.




They then bolted the sections together.



And tested the height and prepared the seat and back boards.





At every stage the bench was checked to ensure it passed the comfort test.


They then finished off the top of the bench and even cut a hole for an umbrella.



The last task was staining the bench to weatherproof it.


The end result is a very nice looking, sturdy and comfortable bench which the team should be very proud of.


Single Benches

In addition to the double bench, we wanted two smaller single benches for the landscaped area.

We also wanted the team to build four long benches.  Previous DoEHA teams had built two tables out of bathtubs that had been used as water troughs when CUE Haven was a farm.  The tables are a great place for an outdoor meal or meeting but up until now we’ve have to bring out stools or chairs.  So we asked the team to also come up with some long benches to match the tables.

Andy worked with the team to train and supervise them in the use of power tools and to assist with the design and development.


The team measured and cut the timber.





Once the timber was cut, the benches were assembled.


The team made sure that all the cuts and angles were accurate.


They also did a lot of nailing!


The weight bearing joints were bolted together.



The bench legs and joints were carefully adjusted to make sure everything was level.



The benches that would be installed outside were stained and varnished to protect them from the sun.


And the table benches were brought out and immediately put to good use!


The team should be very proud of the benches which look very professional and will be used and enjoyed by everyone for a long time.





Once the outdoor benches were completed, it was necessary to prepare the area where they would be installed.  It was a challenge because the area is quite sloping and uneven and there were big rocks and tree stumps as part of the previous landscaping.

The team spent some time discussing how the space would be used and came up with a plan to reconfigure the area.


The first task was to clear and smooth the area.


They made ingenious use of an old tree stumps for a roller.


The next step was to cover the area with gravel so that it can be used in all seasons.


The gravel pile was only a short distance away but of course it was downhill!


Once the gravel was smoothed out, the team installed the benches.  The double bench needed everyone to carry it.


The team used the old tree stumps as additional seats.


The change is amazing and the area now is a very inviting and comfortable place for visitors to relax.




Walking Track Work

There are almost 4 kms of walking tracks and boardwalk at CUE Haven, much of it built by DoEHA teams.  The tracks need constant maintenance, both to keep them clear of vegetation and also to repair or improve any areas prone to erosion or excessive wear.  All team members took time out from building tasks to do some field work on the tracks.

The team walked the tracks and cut back any trees or weeds that were growing onto the track.  They used loppers, shears and secateurs depending on the nature of the weed.







As a result of this work, the tracks will remain clear and easier to navigate during the summer growing season.

In addition to weeds, some areas of the track needed maintenance to control wear and erosion.  Some of the steps in particular have been worn away and the team shored them up with wooden planks.

It was challenging work, especially in the heat and sun.  Each step is different and a solution has to be developed for each one.  Usually it involved digging out the side of the step and installing a box frame.  Each frame had to be cut to shape and tapered to make sure it would fit with other frames.

The team was very creative in coming up with practical solutions to the steps.







At the bottom of the steps the team fixed, there was a long stretch of track that was sloped and was eroding.  They decided that the best solution was a small retaining wall along the edge.  First they measured the distance involved and determined the ideal level of the track.


They then dug out the channel for the boards.


And installed the retaining wall.


While part of the team was fixing the track in the middle of the grove, others worked on the steps by the main entrance to the DoEHA Grove.







Thanks to the team’s efforts the steps are much safer and easier to walk and also look very nice.


The team accomplished an amazing amount of work in just four days especially considering the very hot weather. What a fantastic effort by the whole team!!

We’d like to thank Andy Woodhouse, National Training and Development Director of the DoEHA for organising the residential and for his continuing support.  Andy, thanks for arranging your schedule so that you could be on site with us all week to help supervise and train the participants. It was much appreciated.

A BIG thank you to Abinaya and Ellis.  Your effective and positive team leading played a big part in how much the team accomplished. And thanks too for all your hard work. We hope you will be back to lead future teams.

And our many many thanks to the hard working team.  We very much enjoyed getting to know you and working with you.


It was great to see how willing you were to tackle new projects, learn new skills and bring creative thinking and team work to the challenges we gave you.   You have made a major contribution to the CUE Haven project and your work will be appreciated by the many visitors over the years.  We were very impressed by the way you came together as a team and worked so well together so quickly.



We wish you all the best of luck as you continue to pursue your gold awards and much success and happiness in your future endeavours.  We look forward to having you back at CUE Haven either as team leaders for another residential or just to visit and see how things are progressing.

Thanks again!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Katrina permalink
    January 24, 2016 2:18 pm

    Fantastic write up. Looks like a great time had by all.

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