South Westland – 20-22 April 2021
Located in this superbly named tributary of the Haast River, deep in South Westland, Roaring Billy Hut is an old Forest Service-era hut. BCT Board member Geoff Spearpoint has long had an interest in the area, and in recent years has also led work parties to restore the hut in the adjacent Thomas River.
Shortly before the Roar of 2021, Geoff got a call from Jeff Rawles, one of the DOC rangers based at Haast. He was concerned about the state of the Roaring Billy Hut, which was reported as being mouldy. Rawles was concerned that the hut might not be in a good state for the expected influx of hunters. After securing funding for costs from the BCT, Geoff undertook to fix any problems, accompanied with his wife Jane Morris.
Silverpeaks Scenic Reserve, Dunedin - May 2021
The Silverpeaks Circuit Track is located within the Silverpeaks Scenic Reserve, just a 15-minute drive from Dunedin City. The 25km circuit takes 2-3 days, with accommodation at Jubilee Hut (10 bunks) and Philip J Cox Memorial Hut (4 bunks). It crosses regenerating native forest and tussock-covered schist hills. Any of the four 700m plus peaks in the area offer an almost uninterrupted panoramic view of inland and coastal Otago. The track services a local population of 140,000 Dunedin residents, and numbers using it continue to grow as day walkers, runners and trampers head out to explore the reserve.
Chalkies Scenic Reserve, Dunedin – May 2021
The Green Hut Track Group (GHTG) are a group of volunteers (mostly retired) who for the last 20 years have maintained an extensive backcountry track network across Dunedin on behalf of the DOC and the Dunedin City Council. Every Wednesday the GHTG undertake track maintenance on one or more of the 56 tracks on their list.
Dunedin’s backcountry is highly accessible to the city, and the work undertaken by the GHTG is critical to keeping many of the tracks open to the public. Without the dedicated work of this group, some tracks would have been lost.
Recently the group completed work on Chalkies Track, aided with a grant from the Backcountry Trust.
Chalkies Track, just 10 min drive from Dunedin’s city centre is located within the Chalkies Scenic Reserve. A steep tramping track, it climbs 400m through native bush to emerge onto Powder Hill, which offers spectacular views of the Silverpeaks and Taieri Plans. Impressive limestone cliffs also feature.
In May, 10 members of the GHTG and one DOC ranger completed work on 6 km of track, focusing on the upper section, which had not been maintained for 3 years. The team completed vegetation cutting, track marking and step cutting. They also replaced a rope on a steep section of the track on a rocky face. Altogether they spent 85 person hours in the field, adding to a further 10 hours of planning.
Fiordland National Park, Southland – November-December 2020
The coastline of the Hollyford Track is one of the most magnificent in New Zealand – with sand dunes, rocky reefs, wild surf, forest right to the edge of the sea, and the backdrop of the Darran Mountains and Red Hills. Late last year, volunteers from the Hollyford Conservation Trust completed work on a section of track between Martins Bay and Big Bay, north of the Hollyford Track, facilitated by a BCT grant. In recent years, this coastal track had become heavily overgrown by vegetation, particularly kiekie and harakeke (flax).
Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park – April 2021
Over recent years, a community group have undertaken extensive work to upgrade and re-route the old North-South Track, a tramping route that traverses the length of the Kaimai Range, which divides the Bay of Plenty from the Waikato.
Called the Kaimai Ridgeway Trust (KRT), the group have cut tracks, erected huts and constructed boardwalks – all part of a vision to create a fine tramping route suitable for lesser-experienced trampers and families. Previously, large parts of the old Forest Service-era track were overgrown, swampy or without shelter.
Wairoa Valley, Nelson – April 2021
The Wairoa Gorge Mountain Bike Park lies an hour from Nelson City, deep in the Wairoa Valley, on the edge of the Richmond Range. In 2008 the land was privately purchased with the intention of creating a location that showcased some of the world’s best hand-made mountain-bike trails in the world.
While initially a private park, 'The Gorge' was slowly opened to the public. First public access came during the annual Dodzy Memorial Enduro, then around 2016, through a short-term lease to Nelson Mountain Bike Club (NMTBC) and finally via gifting of the land to the New Zealand public through the Department of Conservation, with the club securing a 40-year lease to use the trails and lodges.
Ruahine Forest Park – May 2021
The restoration of Te Ao Tūpare, formerly known as Traverse or A Frame Hut, must count as one of the most special projects ever supported by the Backcountry Trust. Over the last 18 months, dedicated members of a local hapū have transformed it from a run-down shack to a beautiful and unique whare.
Eyre Mountains/Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park, Southland – March 2021
Lincoln Hut is located in the Ōreti Valley in Southland’s Eyre Mountains, about an hour’s walk from Upper Ōreti Hut. Between 20 and 23 March, a volunteer group of three Permolat Southland members restored the 2-bunk hut, funded by the BCT, taking advantage of the transport for the Ashton Hut project, which six other Permolat Southland members were undertaking at the same time.
Tongariro National Park – March 2021
Rangipo Hut occupies a high position at almost 1600m on the eastern flanks of Mt Ruapehu, offering important shelter for trampers on the Round the Mountain track. The 20-bunk Lockwood-style hut overlooks the Rangipo Desert and Kaimanawa Ranges, and catches the morning sun – when it’s fine.
However, being so high and exposed, and hut gets a fair hammering from storms, dust and wind-blown scoria, and had been looking much the worse for wear. In March, a four-strong team did a fine job of repainting the hut, funded by the BCT.
Waitaha Valley, West Coast – March 2021
County Stream Hut occupies a bench above the Country Stream, a major tributary of the Waitaha River, which drains the formidable western ramparts of Mt Evans in the central Southern Alps. Between 18–26 March, a team of volunteers funded by the BCT flew in to complete an upgrade of the hut.
Eyre Mountains/Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park, Southland – March 2021
Ashton Hut is located above a gorge in the Ashton Burn, a tributary of the Oreti River in Southland’s Eyre Mountains. Between 20 and 23 March, a volunteer group of Permolat Southland members restored the hut, funded by the BCT.
Kaimai-Mamuku Forest Park, Bay of Plenty – February 2021
Situated near Sentinel Rock on the crest of the Kaimai Range, Motutapere Hut has recently had a significant upgrade. The hut, used by hunters and trampers, can be accessed from the Tuahu Track, or from the Mt Eliza Mine Track, both of which link with North South Track.
Waitaha Valley, West Coast – February 2021
Moonbeam Hut is situated in one of the West Coast’s most rugged valleys: the mighty Waitaha.
The Waitaha River drains part of the central Southern Alps, beginning life on the glaciers of such formidable peaks as Mt Evans, before flowing through friendly tussock flats and tumbling down terrific gorges, to finally emerge onto the farmed flats of Westland, and disgorging into the Tasman Sea. Traversing the upper Waitaha has long been a great challenge for trampers and hunters, and in recent years whitewater kayakers have discovered superb paddling.
Other huts in the valley, Ivory Lake and Top Waitaha, have been restored in recent years, and in February 2021 it was the turn of Moonbeam.
Ruahine Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay – February 2021
True to its name, Sunrise Hut faces east, and is renowned for its fine views over sunny Hawke’s Bay – although to be fair, the Ruahine weather doesn’t always play the game. Fortunately, however, the weather gods smiled recently when a BCT team re-painted Sunrise Hut.
The popular hut occupies a pleasant position right on the bushline in Buttercup Hollow. First built in 1983, using an 8-bunk Fraemohs design (similar to Lockwood) it was a pair with Barlow Hut, located in the nearby Makarora River. However, after DOC upgraded the Sunrise Track in the late 1980s, the hut soon got very popular, so in 2005 it was expanded into the 20-bunk structure of today.
Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park, Bay of Plenty - February 2021
Lying near the headwaters of the Hurunui Stream, on the southern Kaimai Range, the 4-bunk Hurunui Hut offers shelter to hunters and trampers alike. Located near the North-South Track, it can also be reached on the Henderson’s Tramline Track or the Ngamuwahine and Leyland O’Brien Tramway Tracks, off SH29.
Arthur’s Pass National Park – December 2020
After the Waimakariri, the Poulter River is the second largest catchment in Arthur’s Pass National Park, with a number of huts located along its length – well into the headwaters. One of these is the A-Frame Worsley Bivouac, located on a river terrace between Trudge and Enchanted Streams.
Ruahine Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay - February 2021
Ruahine Forest Park boasts a number of dog-box style bivouacs – all built by the former New Zealand Forest Service during the deer-culling era. However, Tarn Bivouac can perhaps lay claim to being the most spectacularly situated of all those in the Ruahine Range. Perched on Black Ridge, the diminutive shelter overlooks the Tukituki Valley, with fine views eastwards and – after a short hike to the ridge crest – a stunning vista of the imposing Sawtooth Ridge.
Fiordland National Park – February 2021
Built in 1968, Lake Roe Hut is a classic Fiordland National Park design that has long served trampers and hunters visiting the area. Not much more than a garage, this cost-effective 12-bunk design was, however, a little too lightweight for a location on the Fiordland bushline. Over the decades, repeated snowfalls assaulted the roof. By the late-1990s it had developed quite a sag, and begun to leak.
Toaroha valley, West Coast - February–March 2021
A wit once commented: ‘How can they have a noxious animal problem in the Hokitika – half the bloody watershed is under corrugated iron!’ – a reference to the huge number of huts built in the area by the Forest Service during its deer-culling programme. Even within a catchment that boasts an extraordinary number of huts, the Toaroha Valley has more than its share. No less than eight huts or bivouacs exist in the valley or basins above what is a relatively small river.
One of these is Mullins Hut.
Snowdon Forest, Southland - January 2021
Members of Permolat Southland have been hard at work yet again, this time cutting and marking the track between Boyd Creek and the Upukerora River, using a grant from the BCT.
The Upukerora River drains the Livingstone Mountains, and eventually flows into Lake Te Anau. The track connecting it to Boyd Creek (a tributary of the Eglinton) crosses through lowland forests, clearings and wetlands, including Dunton Swamp. Prior to the Permolat Southland team’s work, the track was poorly marked in places.
Ruataniwha Conservation Park, Canterbury - January 2021
Situated on the edge of a delightful subalpine basin in the headwaters of one of Canterbury’s finest rivers, Brodrick Hut serves as an excellent base for hunters and climbers, or for trampers crossing the nearby pass into the Landsborough. The 6-bunk hut is accessible on tracks in the Hopkins and Huxley Valleys, and can be reached in one long 9-hour day, or a more leisurely two, via Huxley Forks Hut.
A team led by Mike Lagan planned to visit the valley to install a new toilet at Brodrick Hut, as well as a new meat-safe at Huxley Forks Hut. Mike had previous experience building toilets at Growler, Crooked Spur and Stoney Creek huts, as well as others on high country stations, so was ideally qualified for the job.
Mike constructed the toilet in his backyard in August 2019, but delays due to Covid-19 shutdown, injuries and weather frustrated further progress throughout 2020.
Kaimanawa Forest Park February 2021
As one of only four public huts in Kaimanawa Forest Park, Cascade Hut serves a vital function as shelter for trampers and hunters visiting this part of the central North Island. Located at the junction of the Tauranga Taupo and Kaipo Rivers, the 6-bunk hut takes its name from the nearby rapids. It’s reached on a track through bush from Clements Mill Road, which takes 6-8 hours.
The existing Cascade Hut is the second on site, built by DOC in the 1990s to replace an earlier Forest Service one. However, by 2020 the hut was showing its age and needed some serious attention. Fortunately a proposal to the BCT by Mike Main to help with the costs of restoration was successful. Mike, a member of the Sika Foundation and New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association in Taupo, consulted with DOC. The plan was to strip off the hut’s old cladding, roof, deck and verandah, and replace the lot.
Waitaha Valley, West Coast December 2020
Situated on a tussock flat in the headwaters of the central West Coast’s mighty Waitaha River, Top Waitaha Hut has a commanding view over the nearby Hitchin and Bloomfield Ranges. A classic ex-NZFS 6-bunk hut, it serves as an important waypoint for parties heading to and from the iconic Ivory Lake, or as a destination in its own right.
Last year, Colin Morris took on a project to renovate the hut, working with DOC’s Tony Thrupp. In August the Backcountry Trust granted $15,000 to undertake the work. Morris managed a reconnaissance visit in November 2020 and found the hut in better condition than he expected, although water damage had affected the ply lining the walls and ceiling, and a new roof, stainless steep bench and windows were other clear priorities.
Lying just a 20-minute drive from Rotorua, the 14.5km Western Okataina Track is a Grade 3 mountain-bike ride, with a side-trail to a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the city and Mt Tarawera.
Ruahine Forest Park, January 2021
Shutes Hut lies in the northern Ruahine Range, set on a terrace above the Taruarau Valley. Very unusually for the North Island, the hut is built of stone, and owes its existence to the pioneering days when plucky musterers tried to farm sheep in this tough mountain country.
Alex Shute worked as a rabbiter for Poporangi Station, and in 1920 he built the hut with E. Smith, using local stone. Shute lived there for many years, and was quite a character. Now more than a century old, Shutes Hut is one of the most venerable shelters remaining in the North Island from this pastoral period. These days, the hut remains a welcome haven for hunters, fishers and trampers. On 16-18 January 2021, a team of three BCT volunteers – Jason Cheetham, Lennart Prinzre and Sam Warren – painted Shutes Hut, giving it a pleasing change from orange to red.