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.