Nelson Lakes National Park, September 2020
Anyone who has visited Bobs Hut usually develops quite an affection for the place, not just because of the spectacular location, but also for the historic nature of the hut. Bobs Hut nestles against beech forest, at the edge of an extensive river flat in the West Matakitaki Valley, while above rise the summits of the Spenser Mountains and Mt Maling. Facing north, Bobs get a considerable amount of sun, adding to its appeal.
In the 1950s, long before the Matakitaki Valley was added to Nelson Lakes National Park in 1983, government deer cullers worked in the region. At first the cullers worked from tent camps, but the sometimes savage weather soon meant that the need for a permanent hut was realised. After the New Zealand Forest Service took over deer culling operations form Internal Affairs, it began with its now-famous huts designs. Bobs Hut was one of the first attempts at building a S70 six-bunk hut in the South Island and like others built in the Nelson area at that time (including Begley Hut) ended up 400mm longer than what later became the standard design. Constructed towards the end of 1958, it offered much better accommodation that the dilapidated old mining hut that cullers had been using.
At first the hut was known as 'Top Matakitaki Hut', but presumably the name was no longer useful when a second hut, East Matakitaki, was built a few years later. Somehow, the hut became known as Bobs Hut, although to this day it remains a mystery who Bob was – or even if he existed at all. After the cullers left, the hut served for decades as shelter for trampers, mountaineers and deerstalkers, with DOC maintaining it.
Fast-forward to September 2020, and Bobs Hut has slipped behind on its maintenance cycle and a decision was made to re-roof the hut in coloursteel to offer greater long-term protection.
The same Ultimate Descents team led by Tim Marshall that recently refurbished East Matakitaki Hut worked on Bobs Hut – again as a project funded by ‘Kaimahi for Nature’. The team included Marty Bisdee, Sonny Jim and Tommy Maru. The hut had never had a proper woodshed, so the team built one.
As well as making a new step in the entrance, the team gave the hut a fresh paint job.
Like many original Nelson NZFS huts, Bobs retains it’s classic four-pane windows. Thanks to the Ultimate Descents team, and the Kaimahi for Nature funding, the refurbished hut now looks set to record another 60 years of visits for those venturing into this part of Nelson Lakes National Park.
Nelson Lakes National Park, August–September 2020
Flanked by the snowy heights of the Spenser Mountains on one side, and the rippling waters of the Matakitaki River on the other, East Matakitaki Hut is one of the most attractive destinations in Nelson Lakes National Park.
Recently, a team led by Tim Marshall of Ultimate Descents did a fabulous job of restoring the ex-Forest Service Hut. Built in 1960–61, the six-bunk S70 hut was in fairly solid condition, but a failed roof underlay was causing problems with condensation. Removing lead nails from the old roof was also a high priority, as lead-poisoning poses a considerable risk for the local kea population.
Murchison-based raft guide Tim Marshall and his team work many of the local rivers, most often their beloved Buller River. Covid-19 has had a big impact on their customer base, so Marshall welcomed the opportunity for his team to work locally in the Matakitaki headwaters, which is one of the principle tributaries of the Buller.
Manager of the Backcountry Trust, Rob Brown, put together a ‘Kaimahi for Nature’ bid to fund the work on the hut, and this enabled Marshall and his team to help fill in what is now a considerable gap in staff wages for the coming summer.
Brown joined the Ultimate Descents team of Tim, Marty Bisdee, Sonny Jim and Tommy Maru, who flew in ahead of a cold snap in late August. The old roof was removed and replaced before fresh snow fell, and by Tuesday work was well underway on a new woodshed. Prior to the late-1990s, there was an old Internal Affairs Hut (dating from the early 1950s) that served as a woodshed, but after this was removed, wood was stuffed into the entry foyer of the newer hut, causing rot.
On Wednesday, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage arrived for a visit with the welcome news of additional money for the Kaimahi for Nature Fund, as well as announcing further funding for the Kea Conservation Trust. Accompanying the Minister’s party was also Backcountry Trust chair Craig Benbow and Andrea Goodman from the Kea Conservation Trust.
The Minister also managed a quick visit to nearby Bobs Hut, located in the West Matakitaki Branch, which she had last visited on a tramp some 25 years ago.
Thursday was painting day. By Friday morning Rob Hunt of Murchison Helicopters flew in to pull the group out after a solid week of great work.