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Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Residential—14 – 18 January 2019

January 19, 2019

CUE Haven is looking better than ever after the 27th Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award gold award residential this week.  The weather was great and the hard working group accomplished a lot.

The group arrived on Monday morning and included Bethany, Cindy, Claire, David, Jenna, Kabilan, Oliver and Sai.  Alex, who had been a participant in the July 2017 residential, was the team leader.

Also joining us for the week was Rangipai Hill-Dobson, the DoEHA onsite leader and also helping out for part of the week was Andy Woodhouse, DoEHA Outdoor Training and Development Director.

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.

After lunch, we 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.  Summer is maintenance season at CUE Haven and we had a long list of maintenance and building tasks for the group.

Road and Track Cleanup

The warm summer weather has been good news for vegetation at CUE Haven—both the good and bad.  Some of the roads and tracks have become overgrown with trees and the students spent some time cutting back the overhanging branches or weeds.

Track Entrances

There are two entry points from the main drive to tracks built by previous Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary award teams.  Over time, wear and tear and erosion had made the entry ways uneven and unattractive and we asked the team to come up with solutions and improve the appearance of the track approaches.

They decided to level each approach and install side boards to guide visitors between the road and track.  This involved a lot of digging to level the area and to make channels for the side boards.

Once the channels were dug out, the retaining boards could be measured, cut and installed.

The result is greatly improved and much more attractive entrances to the tracks.

The group of nine formed two new teams to work on the other tasks for the week.

Track Drainage

A small stream runs across one of the tracks and previous teams built a small bridge over it.  Under the bridge there is an old drain pipe from the days when CUE Haven was a farm.  The increasingly heavy downpours of late have brought down a lot of debris that has blocked the pipe and the channel under the bridge.  The resulting overflows have damaged the track further downhill.

We asked the team to study the washout and come up with a solution to the drainage problem.

They found where the water was coming from and where flow was impeded and also found that the drain pipe had blocked.

Their solution was to widen the channel for the stream, clear the pipe, and dig a new small culvert to divert overflow.

Clearing the drainpipe was a challenge but Alex managed very well.

Once the new system was complete, they tested it out with some water.

And everything worked fine – Yeah!!

It was a good combination of creativity and hard work and the track will now be much easier to maintain.

Bridge Railing

While working on the drainage, the team decided that a railing over the bridge would be a good addition to the track.

The first challenge was that the curve of the existing track meant that the railing would not be parallel to the bridge.  The team decided to realign the track so that the rail wouldn’t have to be curved.

They dug out the existing retaining boards and reinstalled new ones.

The next task was to dig holes for the posts that would support the railing.

The posts were levelled and cemented in place.

Once the posts were firm, the team planned the railing.  They took detailed measurements in the field.

The team went back down to the nursery to make the railing sections.  The first task was cutting out the top rail.

The team spent some time coming up with a unique design for the rail and decided on a wave pattern to cover the area between the posts.  They drew it on plywood and cut it out.  Rangipai and Alex trained others in the use of the jigsaw and supervised the work.

The sections were carefully sanded.

Then carried up to the bridge and installed.

The wave pattern bridge rail is a wonderful addition to the CUE Haven landscape and will provide visitors walking along that track with a very unique and interesting feature to admire.

New Boardwalk Section

While Alex’s team was working on the bridge rail, the other team worked on a different track.

One of the oldest sections of walking track runs alongside some mature bush and a mature kahikatea.  The old track was quite narrow and steep and some drainage issues were also arising.

The team took some measurements in the field and then came down to brainstorm solutions to the issue with Thomas.

We then took some timber up to do some test layouts of the alternative solutions.

Based on the tests, the team concluded that the best solution would be a low boardwalk that would not interfere with the trees and roots but would also allow for drainage and an easy slope down.

Back in the nursery/workshop the team assembled the framework for the boardwalk.

When the frame was complete it was carefully measured so that the number of top boards needed could be calculated.

The top plank boards were cut and the frame and planks were taken up to the site.

The team checked to ensure the frame was level

And then anchored the level frame with pegs.

Once the frame was firmly in place, the top boards were nailed down.

The last step the team did was to nail down a layer of wire mesh to provide traction in all weather conditions.

The boardwalk looks great and is an excellent improvement to the track.


We want to give visitors to CUE Haven every opportunity to enjoy being in nature, so we are installing benches at short intervals along the tracks.  The plan for the week was to build two benches.

The kahikatea boardwalk team comprising  Cindy, Claire, David and Oliver decided to build a bench at the top of the track by the DoEHA carved posts where the team had earlier improved the entry way.

They spent some time planning their design and David came up with the interesting idea of making a curved bench, something we’ve never done before.

Andy and Rangipai supervised the cutting of the timber.

Once the top timbers were cut out, the next task was to assemble the bench.

The length of the legs was calculated and the timber cut.

Supporting braces were cut out and assembled.

Once the bench seat was complete, the legs were attached.


Once the bench was assembled, any rough spots were sanded down.

The team went up to the site to prepare and level the area where the bench would be installed.

The completed bench was brought up to the track and then carried to the site.

Sai and Kabilan assisted the team with digging the holes for the legs cementing the bench in place.

The new bench is a wonderful addition and it will be enjoyed by many visitors for years to come.

Alex’s team included Bethany, Jenna, Kapilan and Sai and they worked on the bench to be installed further down the track near the bridge where they had installed the wave railing.

They took some time to do some planning and came up with a design to compliment the wave design on the railing.

Rangipai and Alex supervised them as they measured and cut out the needed timber.

And the bench took shape.

While the bench structure was being assembled, part of the team worked on the challenging task of cutting out the wave decoration pattern.

The decorative strips were sanded to smooth out the rough edges and then carefully attached.

The completed bench was taken up to the site.

And the area was cleared and levelled.

The holes for the legs were dug and the bench was cemented into place.

This bench too is a lovely addition to the CUE Haven landscape and adds a new dimension to the space.

Other Tasks

There are always lots of jobs to do at CUE Haven and we asked the team to help out with a couple of other small jobs.  There is a fence near the top of the property which needed to have a section of battens tightened.  The team went up with hammers and took care of the fence to ensure that it is secure.

There is an area that we want to further develop as an outdoor classroom/rest area, but there have been some drainage and washout problems in the area lately after heavy rains.  There was a signpost and bench in the area and the digger man asked that we move them so that when he comes through they won’t be damaged or in the way.

The team dug out around the bases of the bench and sign and we were able to move them out of the way temporarily.

This was another very successful residential week.  The team worked well together, got a lot done and had fun.  The students were out of their comfort zone and the entire team should be very proud of their efforts.  Through teamwork and hard work they have made a lasting contribution that will be much appreciated by visitors to CUE Haven.

It was a fun and productive week and we’d like to thank Andy Woodhouse for taking time out of his busy schedule to assist with the residential.  Andy, we really appreciate your help and your continued support of our efforts at CUE Haven.  And Happy Birthday again!

And many thanks to Rangipai for taking time away from work to help out.  We really value your guidance and advice and very much appreciate your contributions.

And a BIG thank you to Alex for serving as team leader—you really helped make this residential so successful with your excellent team leadership.

And of course, a huge THANK YOU to all the hard-working participants.  We very much enjoyed meeting you and working with you.

We were very impressed with your motivation and hard work and we hope you enjoyed the week as much as we did.  You have all made a major contribution and your efforts will be appreciated by the many visitors and volunteers at CUE Haven over the years.  We’re very happy you had a chance to make some new friends and create some lasting memories.

We wish you the very best of luck with your studies and much success in all your future endeavours and we hope you will come back to CUE Haven again with your family and friends and to serve as team leaders.



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