Kahurangi National Park, West Coast – March 2022
Some huts hold appeal simply because of their remoteness, others for their history. Kākāpo Hut can lay claim to being remote and historically important. The 4-bunk hut is one of the early deer-culling huts developed by the Forest Service in Nelson as a trial using helicopters to transport materials in (rather than parachuting in loads from planes). It was built in 1958, along with others in Northwest Nelson including McConchies, Karamea Bend and Luna (Kākāpo and McConchies are the only two which still remain as public huts). The trial proved successful and helped usher in the helicopter era of building huts.
Kākāpo Hut occupies a small clearing in the Kākāpo River, a tributary of the mighty Karamea. The Kākāpo drains the Herbert and Scarlett Ranges in the heart of Kahurangi National Park, and can be reached on routes from the adjacent Wangapeka Track.
Unfortunately the hut’s roof had started leaking some time ago. Happily, a hard-working team using a grant from the Kaimahi for Nature fund renovated the historic hut in March 2022. The team included Pete Braggins, Marc Lesaicherre and Pete Sinclair.
The flight logistics worked very nicely, with the team able to piggyback off the chopper activity happening with the much larger scale relocation of Belltown Hut in the nearby Wangapeka Track.
As well as re-roofing, their brief was to tidy up the interior and build ‘a good-sized woodshed’ in anticipation of another team planning to cut back the regrowth in the clearing to let in more light. When this happens there’ll be enough firewood to last about 20 years. Seeking their place in backcountry folklore, the KFN team went perhaps a little too literal with the brief … so now if you bag the rarely visited Kākāpo Hut, you'll also get to bag the woodshed.
The KFN Kākāpo team were impressed by the variety of birdlife around the hut, including kākā, whio, and even Great Spotted kiwi calling at night. Huge thanks to Pete, Marc and Pete for their hard mahi – they smashed out the work in three days. A nice tidy-up, which should see the hut in good shape for another 60 years.
Additionally, a Permolat team coordinated by Andrew Barker have been track-cutting in the Kākāpo Valley. So not only is the hut (and woodshed!) more commodious, but foot access has improved too. Strike while the iron is hot and get in there for a visit!