Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – March 2022
Carkeek Hut lies in the heart of the Tararua Ranges, and can be regarded as the most remote hut in the forest park. The six-bunk occupies a ridge-top position on the 6-bunk Carkeek Ridge, high above the headwaters of the rugged Waiohine River. It recently got a makeover by members of the ex-NZFS team, using funding from the Backcountry Trust.
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – January 2022
High on a spur above the Waiohine valley lies McGregor Bivouac, a classic Forest Service era two-bunk dog-box bivvy. Nestled against the edge of the forest, the bivvy has commanding views north over the upper Waiohine catchment and the peaks of the northern Tararua Range. It’s most often reached from the Holdsworth Road end via the Atiwkahatu and Jumbo tracks. From Jumbo, a route over the tops, past Angle Knob, leads to a signposted turnoff that descends to the bivouac.
Built in 1966, the bivouac has been maintained over the years, but recently reports of it leaking reached John McCann, the man behind the ex-NZFS team. McCann organised for two members of the volunteer group, Grant Timlin and Roy Winterburn, both ex-cullers, to walk in and inspect the bivouac. They found that when the bivouac got new piles some years ago, this had exposed the bottom bearers. They also discovered that many of the old clouts in the cladding had completely rusted through.
McCann talked through options with Megan Dimozantos, the Backcountry Trust’s North Island manager. One option was a completely re-roof and cladding, and the other was replacing the clouts with screws and rubber washers. McCann, however, felt a complete re-clad was unnecessary, and that the screws would give the bivouac a ‘pimply’ appearance, undermining its authenticity. One the guiding principles of the exNZFS is to retain originality when possible.
Accordingly, Grant Timlin and Roy Winterburn flew in by helicopter in February 2022, and replaced all the clouts with new ones. They also added a skirting to protect the bearers from the weather, and replaced the window. An unoriginal ceiling seemed to be retaining moisture inside the hut, so this was removed. McCann hopes these solutions will keep the bivvy watertight.
The ex-NZFS team now maintains some 16 huts in the Tararua and Aorangi Ranges, and aims to ensure huts from the NZFS deer-culling era have a long life ahead. Next in their sights is some work on the Mid King Bivouac.
West Coast – 25-27 March 2022
Bald Hill and Fraser Peak are twin summits on the West Coast’s Bald Hill Range, about 35 kilometres south of Hokitika. While only modest in height – about 1160 metres, these two peaks protrude above the bushline, offering good views of the Mikonui, Tōtara and Whitcombe valleys on either side. In March 2022, a team of Permolat volunteers worked on the route between the peaks, with funding from the Backcountry Trust. The crew included Ted Brennan, Andrew Buglass, Annie Hughes, Jane Morris, Joke de Rike and Geoff Spearpoint.
Lake Sumner Forest Park, Canterbury – March 2022
In the southeastern quadrant of Lake Sumner Forest Park is the Jollie Brook catchment, which drains the mountains of the Glynn Wye Range. From the Lake Sumner Road, a track leads up the valley, connecting two huts. While Cold Stream Hut, located up a tributary of the same name, is a standard ex-Forest Service 6-bunk design, the 7-bunk Jollie Brook Hut itself is more unusual. It comprises a central living room, with bunkrooms on either side. The only other hut of this exact design is Three Mile Stream, also in Lake Sumner Forest Park.
In March, volunteers Greg Jarvis, Pete McBeth and Geoff Spiers got stuck in to restore both Cold Stream and Jollie Brook Huts, aided by a Backcountry Trust grant.
Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park, Southland – 11-15 March 2022
Lake Monowai curls like a sickle in the mountains of eastern Fiordland, flanked by the Kaherekoau Mountains on one side, and Cleughearn peak on the other. Beside its shores lie four huts: Monowai Hut, the two Rodger Inlet Huts, and Eel Creek Hut. Like some others in the area, Eel Creek Hut is an A-Frame design, and members of Permolat Southland restored it March, with funding from the Backcountry Trust.
Waitōtara Conservation Area, Whanganui – 8-15 March 2022
The second-largest extent of native forest in the North Island empasses a huge area in the backcountry between Whanganui and Taranaki. The Whanganui National Park protects a significant part of these forests, through which the well-known Matemateāonga Track crosses.
Less well-known and visited are the forests of the Waitōtara Conservation Area, which has a network of tracks that connect with the Matemateāonga Track. These tracks have received little attention in recent years, and become overgrown and difficult to follow. That changed in March, when a group of volunteers, mainly from Auckland, got stuck in to open up a significant section of the tracks north of Tahupo and Puteore Huts. Most of the group had previous experience working on tracks in the Kaimai Range.
The six-strong group split in two. At Tahupo Hut were Tony Walton, Geoff Mead and Luitgard Schwendemann, while staying at Puteore Hut were John Parsons, Catherine Doyle and Jane Marjoribanks.
Lake Sumner Forest Park, Canterbury – March 2022
Lake Sumner Forest Park straddles the Lewis Pass highway, which provides access to the area’s many pleasant valleys. One of these is the Doubtful Valley, which boasts a track and two huts: one predictably called Doubtful Hut, and the other more whimsically known as Doubtless Hut. The latter hut lies near the headwaters, and recently had a welcome makeover from a volunteer team.
Coromandel Forest Park – Summer 2021-22
The Rangihau is a neglected backcountry track at the head of the Kauaeranga Valley in Coromandel Forest Park. Running north from the popular Pinnacles Hut, the track provides access to several historically significant sites – including the main Kauaeranga Kauri Dam site and work camps. This area was the site of some of the last significant kauri milling in the country, during the mid-1920s, with important relics remaining.
Aorangi Forest Park, Wairarapa – January 2022
Tauanui is one of a handful of huts in the Wairarapa’s Aorangi Range. Located a couple of hours by foot or bike up the Tauanui River from the nearest road end, the 6-bunk hut gets fair amount of use and – unfortunately – abuse. Happily, a group of Backcountry Trust volunteers gave the hut some much-needed attention in January 2022.
Oteake Conservation Park, Canterbury – 15 January 2022
Otematapaio or Pink Hut is situated on the old Otematapaio Station near the head of the Otematapaio Creek on the boundary with Otematata Station and approximately 18 kilometres from the main Omarama to Otematata highway. Otematapaio Station was originally part of Omarama Station, which ran from the Ahuriri River to the Otematapaio River. Many websites name the hut as 'Otematapaio Station Hut', but to the local owners, musterers and fencers, it was always known as the ‘Pink Hut’. The old horse pen had been washed away and fallen into disrepair.
Jollie Valley, Mackenzie Country, Canterbury – November 2021
The Jollie River flows into the Tasman River east of Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, taking its source from the high peaks spanning the Burnett Mountains and the Gamack Range. Last November, a team of New Zealand Alpine Club volunteers went in to do some work on two of the huts in the valley: Green Point Hut and Jollie Hut. The Backcountry Trust funded transport and materials.
South Westland – 12-19 December 2021
Backcountry Trust board member Geoff Spearpoint has had a long association with the Paringa Valley, and over the last seven years has completed several maintenance trips to Tunnel Creek Hut. It lies near the head of the Paringa River, beneath Mt Zeilian and the impressive Douglas Spur, and provides important shelter for hunters, and trampers heading into the Hooker-Landsborough Wilderness Area.
Tararua Forest Park, Horowhenua – November, December 2021 & March 2022
South Ōhau Hut provides crucial shelter at one of the gateways into Tararua Forest Park: the Ōhau River. With access to Ōtaki Forks now severely restricted, this access is more important than ever.
The 10-bunk South Ōhau Hut was built in 2008 by DOC, as part of its new generation of huts. The comfortable, modern hut has served well, but recent had unfortunately suffered significant vandalism. In December 2022, Manawatū volunteers Jean Garman and Steve Wilman led a team in to do some work, which was funded by the Backcountry Trust.
Eyre Mountains / Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park – 14-16 February 2022
Following on from their excellent work on Mansion Hut, the Permolat Southland team have once again tackled another project in the Eyre Mountains. This time it was the basic two-bunk Irthing Hut, which lies in the headwaters of Irthing Stream, upriver from Mansion Hut.
Gwavas Conservation Area, Hawke’s Bay – December 2021, January 2022
Those familiar with State Highway 50 will know the bony shapes of the Wakarara Range, rugged foothills that protrude from the plains east of the main Ruahine mountains. Surrounded by pine forest blocks, the Gwavas Conservation Area protects what remains of the area’s native bush. Perched near the summit of the area’s highest summit, Poutaki (1020m), and taking its name, is the four-bunk Poutaki Hut. It’s the last of a handful of huts that used to exist in the area. Originally built by Forest Service rangers in 1983, using cobbled together materials from the old Makaroro Base Hut, Poutaki Hut served well for almost 40 years. By 2021, however, it needed significant work.
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – February 2022
Located on a pleasant flat in the mid reaches of the Waingawa River, Mitre Flats Hut serves as shelter for trampers, hunters and anglers alike. Above rises the steep track to Pukeamoamo / Mitre, at 1571 metres highest peak in the Tararua Ranges.
The current Mitre Flats Hut was built in 1988 by the Department of Conservation, in conjunction with the Masterton Tramping Club. It replaced earlier versions built by Wairarapa tramping clubs. At 14 bunks, it’s a reasonably large hut, with plenty of good camping nearby too. The hut is most often reached on the Barra Track, which takes 4-5 hours from the Upper Waingawa Road.
Mikonui Catchment, West Coast – January 2022
Healey Creek Hut occupies a high ledge above the headwaters of the Mikonui River, between the Whitcombe to the north and Waitaha to the south.
A standard NZFS 4-bunk S81 design, the hut was built in April 1968, and lined during the early 1980s. In April 2018, the four-bunker got a new water-tank, roof and piles, plus a new red paint job. Since these improvements, the hut has seen a marked increase in popularity, so badly needed a toilet.
So a Backcountry Trust volunteer team set to this task in an ideal weather window during January 2022. The team included Luis Castanon, Thomas Hayes, Jane Morris, Geoff Spearpoint, and Joanna Turnbull.
Ruahine Forest Park, Rangitikei – January 2022
High above the gorges of the lower Maropea River, at the foot of the Mokai Patea Range, sits Otukota Hut. It was originally built as shelter for deer cullers hunting the broad tops of the Mokai Patea Range, and now serves trampers and hunters enjoying the area.
The most direct route is on a poled route from the Mokai Road end (with permission from the landowner), which takes about 5 hours. Alternatively, Otukota Hut can be reached via a number of multi-day routes crossing from the eastern side of the Ruahine Range.
In October 2021 a Kaimahi for Nature team undertook an extensive renovation. All that was left was a new paint job and general tidy-up. Matt Short, Dan Fake and Greg Shirras flew in for four days painting the hut in January 2022, with paint generously provided by Dulux. Matt reported:
Ruahine Forest Park, Rangitikei – January 2022
Taruarau Biv sits high on the bushedge of the northern Ruahine Range, with an outlook over the Taruarau River and the distant Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges. It’s an isolated spot, and a classic Forest Service-era dogbox-style bivouac. Like many others in the range, the bivouac was due for a bit of attention, and fortunately attracted the interest of Jason Cheetham and a hard-working crew.
Ruahine Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay – December 2021
Stanfield Hut lies on the banks of the Tamaki River West Branch, in the southeastern part of the Ruahine Range. Originally built by the NZ Forest Service in 1965, it replaced earlier hunter’s huts in the valley. The hut’s name remembers George Stanfield, who farmed nearby in the Ruahine foothills. Now over 50 years old, the hut was due for a bit of love and attention, which it certainly got from the (almost) all-women team in December 2021. The BCT’s dynamic Megan Dimozantos had this to report.
Eyre Mountains / Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park, Southland, 8–9 January 2022
Waianakarua Scenic Reserve, Ōamaru – November & December 2021
Thanks to the efforts of hunters from the North Otago branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, a new hut sits proudly on a ridge-top in this bush reserve near Ōamaru. Over the rest of summer, NZDA members led by Barry Wilson will be putting the finishing touches on the new facility, named Kahikatea Lodge.
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – May 2021
At long last, there is once again a bivouac on the Tararua Ranges’ Neill-Winchcombe Biv – the third on site.
If it were not for the original Winchcombe Biv, Geoff Spearpoint may well have perished on a wintry Neill-Winchcombe Ridge when he was just a teenager, back in the 1960s. Spearpoint and his schoolmate retreated back to the biv, exhausted and beaten by the weather, and most likely would have succumbed to hypothermia if were not for the shelter of the small dog-box bivouac.
This was the first Winchcombe Biv, erected by the Forest Service for use by its deer cullers during the 1960s. During the mid-1980s, this dog-box (Winchcombe Biv I) was replaced by a small stand-up two-person hut: Winchcombe Biv II. However, it didn’t last long; by the 1990s it had been removed as part of a rationalisation of huts within the Tararua Range.
So it’s with a nice sense of full-circle that in his role on the Backcountry Trust Board, nearly 60 years later, Spearpoint could approve funding for Winchcombe Biv III.
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – April 2021
Located in the upper Waingawa River, Cow Creek Hut offers important shelter for a range of trips on the eastern side of Tararua Forest Park. It’s most often reached from Kiriwhakapapa on a 4-5 hour tramp over the Blue Range. Other approaches include the valley track from Mitre Flats Hut, and also the route from Roaring Stag Hut in the neighbouring Ruamahanga Valley. Built in 1960, the hut has served well for over 60 years, and remains one of the few largely unmodified NZFS S70 huts in the Tararua Range.
Recently, Cow Creek Hut had a welcome tidy-up by members of the Hutt Valley branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, who have a management agreement for upkeep of the hut with DOC Masterton. The aim is to retain these facilities as close as possible to their original design, so that they remain as examples of the huts used in the NZFS deer-culling era.
Waikiti Valley, West Coast, 4–7 November 2021
Waikiti Hut is a rarely-visited, remote 6-bunk hut situated in the middle reaches of the Waikiti River, a tributary of the Ahaura River, east of Greymouth. It is accessible on a track from the Haupiri-Amuri Road up the Waikiti River, or over the tops west of the hut via Crane and Logjam Creeks. In November, a Backcountry Trust volunteer team flew into Waikiti Hut with Ahaura Helicopters to undertake a few days of track-cutting in the area.
The team included Steph Buxton, Mauricio Lloreda and Brent Smith.