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.