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Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Residential—16-20 July 2018

July 21, 2018

This week we hosted the 25th Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award gold residential.

The group arrived on Monday morning and included Annie, Caitlyn, Hayley, James, Kayla, Sophie, Suyeon and Vicky.  Hayley was the on-site team leader.

Also joining us for the week was Rangipai Hill-Dobson, the DoEHA CUE Haven residential leader and also on site helping out for most of the week was Andy Woodhouse, DoEHA National Training and Development Director.

We started off with morning tea and introductions.  Mahrukh gave an overview of the CUE Haven project and Thomas gave a description of the work planned for the week, outlined expectations and gave a safety briefing.

The July residential is always a challenge because it is in the middle of winter when the ground is wet and there is a good chance of rain.  As a result, we have to be flexible as to planning and activities.  We did have a lot of rain and mud, but the team coped very well.  The plan for the week was to do some planting, bench building and a variety of maintenance tasks.  The group broke into two teams to tackle different tasks.


The good news is that the bush at CUE Haven is growing thick and fast, but that means that we need to regularly trim back branches growing over roads, tracks and fence lines.  The team tackled various pruning jobs with loppers and secateurs.

Most of the trimming was along roads and tracks.

We also need to trim back the trees from the boundary fence to discourage the neighbours’ cows from coming over for a tasty snack.

Lastly, the team helped prune some of the fruit trees in the orchard.


Winter is planting season at CUE Haven and the participants finished off our planting for the season.  The first task was taking the plants up to the planting site.

Once on site, the team planted kahikatea, kawakawa, miro and karamu.

They also cleaned up the area around the DoEHA mosaic and planted some ornamental hebes around the mosaic.

The mosaic area is now a nice spot for visitors to have a seat and enjoy the surrounding bush.

Track Maintenance

Because it’s so wet in winter we can’t do a lot of track work, but there were a few critical tasks that we asked the group to do.

The first was fixing a washout on a long section of track.  The retaining boards and pegging supporting the track had collapsed and there was the threat of further erosion.  With Andy’s supervision, the team dug out the area, replaced and reinforced the retaining boards and generally straightened and improved the track.

The last task was to cover the improved section with gravel to make it safe in all weather.

The team also inspected the wetlands boardwalk to identify places where the wire mesh we installed to make the surface slip-proof was coming loose.  They cut out bad sections and replaced them with new mesh.

The most ambitious track project the team tackled was to extend the boardwalk on a section of walking track. The unusually heavy rain we have had the past month has made a long section of track virtually impassable and we decided to extend the boardwalk.

The team decided to reposition a small section of the existing boardwalk and also build a long section to extend the boardwalk.

Once the measurements were taken they built the framework.  Andy trained and supervised them in the use of power tools to cut the timber.

They then took the timber into the field and assembled the framework.

The completed framework was put into position and secured in place.

The top planks were then installed, a job that required a lot of nailing.

The team was then left with one of the bigger challenges—planking a curved section of boardwalk.  They studied the issue and came up with a plan for how to cut wedge planks to cover the area.

It was like putting a puzzle together and the team got it just right!

A very nice, professional job.

The last task was to install a layer of mesh over the new boardwalk section to ensure safe traction when the boards are wet.

They also put down a layer of gravel on the section of track with no boardwalk to make it easier to walk on during the wet weather.

Thanks to the team’s efforts this section of the track is now usable and comfortable to walk on.

Bench Building

While one team was in the field, the other team designed and built two innovative benches for the walking track.  There is an area in the wetlands where there is a walking track down a hill to a bridge.  The track is a series of switchbacks to make it easier to walk up and down the hill and there are a couple of places where we thought it would be nice for visitors to be able to sit and rest and enjoy the views.  The team studied the area and came up with designs for two benches.

The spent some time designing the proposed benches.

And then went to work to build them.

Pai trained the team in the use of the power tools and supervised their use.

The benches slowly took shape.

Once the benches were complete, the team spent some time in the field levelling the ground and preparing the area where the benches would be installed.

The benches were given their final touches and then loaded onto the ute and carried out to where they would be installed.

The team also brought up the concrete and water and tools that would be needed to cement the benches in place.

The first bench follows an angle in the track and was built in two sections.  It was a challenge to get sections aligned together and parallel to the track.  The team used a post hole borer to make holes for the benches.

Once the holes were made, there was a lot of digging still required to get the bench sections even and the surrounding area level.

The bench was then cemented into place.

Installation of the second bench also presented challenges.  It is on a more sloping section of track so there was a lot of work needed to level the area.

Also, this bench has a back which was installed in the field.

Extra large holes were needed for the bench legs and the back support timbers.

Installing benches is always a challenge and this time is was complicated by a torrential rain storm which made the area slippery and muddy.  But the determined team carried on and got the benches in.  They are a fantastic addition to the landscape and will be enjoyed by visitors for years to come.

Here are views of the new benches.

Future DoEHA teams will landscape the area around the benches.

This residential involved a lot of hard work in challenging conditions. But the team took some time to relax, socialise and enjoy the property.  They enjoyed stargazing at night and seeing the glow worms on the walking track.  And they also made friends with some of our bovine neighbours!

Our many thanks to Andy and Rangipai for their assistance working with the students and helping to keep projects moving.  We really appreciate your enthusiasm and support.

And thank you to Hayley for taking time out of your busy schedule to help out as the team leader.

And a BIG THANK YOU to the hard working team.  We really enjoyed meeting you and working with you and very much appreciate your many valued contributions to CUE Haven.  We hope you will come back to visit with your families and friends and we wish you good luck with your studies and much happiness and success in the future.

Thanks again!!


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