The Dome Equipment Shed is being removed from Mount Ruapehu this month as it is no longer needed to house volcano monitoring equipment.
The shed was originally built as the Dome Shelter, but has been destroyed, rebuilt and damaged in volcanic eruptions.
Since the 1995-96 eruptions its function has been restricted to an equipment shed for monitoring volcanic activity.
Department of Conservation Tongariro district operations manager Bhrent Guy says the shed is hard to find in a blizzard, but even on a good weather day in winter the top hatch is generally frozen shut, requiring more than 30 minutes of digging off ice and snow to access the main door.
“The shed hasn’t served as an effective shelter for two decades and, since 2011, the important volcano monitoring equipment has been housed in the purpose-built ‘Matarangi’ facility at Glacier Knob.”
Bhrent says the volcano monitoring equipment is designed to reduce the volcanic risk to skiers and the wider community as part of the GeoNet project managed by GNS Science with support from DOC and the local ski field operation Ruapehu Alpine Lifts.
“People need prompt warnings about volcanic eruptions, making the Matarangi facility a crucial part of the Tongariro National Park’s wider volcano monitoring network that supplies data to the Ruapehu Eruption Detection System.”
Bhrent says removing the shed will also acknowledge the cultural significance of Mount Ruapehu’s sacred summit plateau.
DOC is sensitive to the history surrounding the building and has been working with individuals and organisations connected to incidents associated with Dome Shelter.
William Pike and James Christie were using the shed’s lobby as a shelter during the 2007 eruption when William’s leg was pinned by rocks that smashed through the door. His leg was ultimately amputated.
William says, “It will be a shame to see the building go, but I understand the complexities involved with upkeep and support the decision DOC has made to remove it. On the bright side, we will all be able to enjoy the pristine mountainscape free of any buildings.”
The shed is also associated with an earlier tragedy. In 1990, a group of army soldiers on a survival course were looking for the Dome Shelter in a blizzard, hoping to get out of the extreme weather. Conditions were so difficult they never got there and six of them lost their lives.
The New Zealand Army is working with DOC to help remove the structure.