Along the Havelock Valley, in the Rangitata catchment, is a 4WD access track that leads through to Growler Hut. In recent years this former farm road had become so rutted through that vehicles using the track had started bypassing the worst parts by using the airstrip next to it, which in turn had started to tear up the airstrip and the potential for that to become dangerously rutted as well. This may not have been such a big issue if vehicles had kept travel to the edges of the airstrip, but in using the centre of it, safety concerns for light aircraft landings became an issue. A joint decision was made between DOC and the local group to repair the access road to protect the airstrip for both its concessionaires and its historical value, with part funding sourced from the Backcountry Trust.
The NZDA's Southern Lakes Branch was keen to get into a project following the Covid-19 shut down that all but ruined the annual seasonal high point for hunters. They contacted the Backcountry Trust in April itching to get out into the mountains and by the following month we had a project up and running for them in their patch.
Project lead Dave Rider went in with DOC Te Anau's Senior Ranger Grant Tremain in mid May and put together a work plan to catch up on some of the maintenance work on the hut. While there it was also decided it was timely to replace the roof, underlay and strengthen the roof structure.
Built in 1975, Upper Spey Hut is one of the classic designs unique to Fiordland National Park and after 45 years of fine service on the Dusky Track is still in good condition. This 12-bunk design has been a simple and effective solution and many were built by Lands & Survey to open up recreational opportunities in Fiordland. The roof underlay was long past its use-by-date and condensation was beginning to seep through onto the rafters as well as near the top plates where the skylights are part of the roof.
The group was quickly into the work with the two builders starting on taking the old roof off, a team of two others painting the new fascia boards while the third part of the group got into repairing the bunks. As well as the re-roofing, the team cleaned out the water tank and fitted proper tie downs, before also installing new washing lines for users (both inside and out). Having lost a few hours they worked well into the night to get as much of the work done on the first day. The Sunday was just as long to finish the roofing and by Monday the job was all but complete as they finished off the final few jobs before the pick-up time.
Read the full report here:
The Backcountry Trust has been working for some time to pull together the people and materials to renovate the huts on the Dusky Track. A huge thanks to the NZDA Southern Lakes branch for kicking off the project in such style.
Built in 1968, Monument Hut is a tidy S70 6 bunk hut built by the NZFS in the Hopkins Valley. The New Zealand Forest Service had a great vision for opening up recreation in this valley pre-DOC with 2WD access formerly maintained up to Monument Hut. This opened up a huge area of backcountry ideal for family tramping, hunting and climbing. Over time the weather has chipped away at the road and it is now only suitable for competent 4WD vehicles. Without a 4WD many users will park at Ram Hill carpark and walk, or mountain bike, up to Monument Hut. A great little first stop on any adventure through the Hopkins Valley, or lunch break on the way to Red Hut, Huxley Forks or Dasler Biv. The area is also open to 4WD adventures up to the NZAC owned Elcho Hut.
Lake Man Biv was built in 1968 by the NZFS and is a 2-3 day round trip between the Doubtful and Hope valleys, located in the Lewis Pass area. Sometime in the early 2000s the original open fire place was removed leaving this less attractive as a winter destination, but still welcome shelter for most times of the year.
Apart from this modification, the biv had not had regular maintenance for 20 years before Peter Alspach applied for funds from the Backcountry Trust in Round 6. An assessment trip was undertaken in September 2017 to get an idea of the work needed on the biv.
Built in 1962, Mid Waiohine Hut in Tararua Forest Park has long been managed as an original S70 6-bunk hut with it's as-built features intact. Grant Timlin applied for a grant in Round 4 for the exNZFS to replace the ageing roof on the hut.
Murphy’s Biv is one of a group of huts accessible up the Havelock Valley, and is a 1.5hr walk up Murphy’s Stream from the Havelock River. This standard S186 biv was built in 1965 and is a favored base for hunters, particularly in early winter for the early winter Himalayan Tahr season. Unfortunately the chimney had sustained some severe wind damage, in fact it had all but been completely flattened, leaving only the firebox base partially intact. Heating for this hut is integral to the hunting experience here so the decision was made to restore the open fire.
Mike Lagan of Geraldine applied for a small grant to do the work as part of Round 3 of the Outdoor Recreation Consortium funding. It would be the first of a number of projects Mike would take on in the local area.
Howletts Hut is one of the most historic club huts in the country which has been a welcome refuge for trampers and hunters for over 60 years. The snug location on the Daphne Ridge in Ruahine Forest Park first had a hut built there in 1893 by local botanist and school teacher William Howlett. This hut lasted until 1930 and in 1958 the Heretaunga Tramping Club built the current hut one to replace it. It has been lovingly maintained by them ever since and over the years it has had small upgrades but largely retains its original shape and character.
The Nelson Tramping Club were one of the early organised tramping clubs to get involved with local hut renovations in their area utilising Outdoor Recreation Consortium Funding. The first project they decided to take on was the historic Flora Hut in Kahurangi National Park. Built in 1927, Flora Hut is one of only a couple of huts remaining with the distinctive two separate bunk rooms consistent with the social norms of the time. The hut was built by the Mt Balloon Scenic Reserve Board but by the 1970s had fallen into such disrepair that the New Zealand Forest Service decided to essentially completely rebuild it to the original design in 1972. By this the road end was quite close to Flora Hut and sadly it started to suffer from some vandalism by the end of the 1990s. At one stage removing the hut was considered, but the 2002 Recreational Opportunities Review saw a resurgence of support for retaining this hut as a key family entry level opportunity. In 2013 the Nelson Tramping Club decided to restore the hut in partnership with DOC Motueka.
Minchin Biv was one of the first full rebuilds of a S86 biv funded by the Outdoor Recreation Consortium back in February 2016. Built in 1958, Minchin Biv was one of the first bivs built to the new standard S86 design but its sad decline had been noticed over the past 20 years, punctuated by periodical inspections to record its continuing lack of water tightness. In the early days of the Outdoor Recreation Consortium, Roger Woods stepped in with a proposal to rebuild the biv and applied for funding in Round 3.
Located part way up the Matukituki Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park, Cascade Hut is one of the oldest club huts in the South Island. Built in 1932, the hut has two rooms with 4-bunks each which along with Flora Hut further north is one of a couple of huts still remaining whose design represents the social mores of the time. In the past few years maintenance had slipped behind on Cascade Hut with more of the focus being on the clubs 1949 Aspiring Hut just 15 minutes further up the valley.
The Canterbury Mountaineering Club (CMC) built the current Barker Hut in 1980 and this has served the outdoor community well as a base for climbing peaks in the area, as well as welcome shelter on some of the trans-alpine tramping trips in the area. The hut is the second hut on the site with the original hut being built in 1945.
Tautuku Hut is a converted Skyline garage built in 1991 in a clearing, in the Catlin Forest Park. It is reached in a pleasant 2-3 hour walk from the McLeans Falls carpark. Alastair Macdonald from Permolat Southland applied for some funding from the Round 11 grants for what would be the first round of maintenance for this remote hut in a long time. The group had tramped in earlier to recce the project and measure up what was needed. As part of this trip they cleared some bush around the hut to allow for more light on the hut, as well as cut a small track behind the hut and created a small clearing for a much needed toilet.
Back in 2018 the Upper Clutha Tramping Club kindly donated $1,000 to the Backcountry Trust towards the collective work and in the same letter said 'by the way, can you find a project for us?'. For sometime we had been trying to find a group to take on Top Hut in the Ahuriri Conservation Park. This small 2-person biv was built in 1966 but for the last 20 years had fallen off the maintenance schedule. It was a perfect fit for the size project the group wanted. The group flew in early in March 2019 and were joined by NZ Geographic roving reporter Kennedy Warne who was working on an article for the magazine on New Zealand's backcountry hut network.
In the week before the world went into Level 4 as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, Dave Hodder and five others flew in with Alpine Springs Helicopters to Tutu Hut. The trip had already been delayed by a month, but they managed to get in with enough tools and materials to finish the new helipad at the site. The day before they left they were advised that they would need to wear face masks and gloves on the flight, which they managed to find among their gear at home after they discovered that Bunnings had already sold out.
From the first days of the Outdoor Recreation Consortium, Backcountry Trust board member Geoff Spearpoint had taken on the maintenance of the remote NZFS huts in South Westland. These three S70 6-bunk huts were amongst the last built by the NZFS in the 1970s and over the last few years Geoff has led many groups in to this area to do the work on Tunnel Creek, Roaring Billy and Thomas River Huts.
Richard Shields contacted the Backcountry Trust back in February 2020 to say that he and some friends were visiting the South Island and were keen to pitch in as a group to do some volunteer work on a hut. His timing was perfect as we had just been starting to explore some 'paint a hut' projects for the South Island and this one was the perfect fit for their team.
Poolies Hut on the St James Cycle Trail had sadly fallen into disrepair in recent years before Christchurch builder Keith Dekkers approached us with an idea to renovate it. The hut was originally built as a small cabin for the AA Motor Camp in Hamner Springs and was relocated to this site on an old Army Quad by Brian Pool, Ted Kumeroa and Ian Lunn. The hut is an important safety shelter for the track if coming in from the Saddle Spur Bridge end. If the Edwards River is in flood it may not be possible to reach Scotties Hut and cycling back to Poolies is the best option.
In late January 2016, Gaylene Wilkinson, Geoff Spearpoint, and Alex Tuffnell spent three days preparing and painting the hut exterior. They also cleared existing drainage around the hut, and lifted and relaid the rock cobbles at the entrance to the hut.
Ivory Lake Hut has long been a destination on every dedicated hut baggers list. It was built in 1970 from a standard NZFS S70 kitset hut that was ordered by Trevor Chinn for the team that planned to study the small Ivory Glacier. This team first went in to survey the area in April 1968. In the preceding years the NZFS had already built the first hut in the Waitaha Valley – Top Waitaha Hut which opened up the huge hunting basins in the upper valley. In those days there were no tracks in the lower valley and the standard access was up over the main divide via the well established network in the Whitcombe and Prices Basin.
In March 2020 Permolat stalwart Hugh van Noorden got together a keen group to head in the West Mathias valley to renovate the West Mathias Biv. The group had also identified that, like many of these small bivs, it needed a small woodshed to stop people storing wet wood under or in the hut, a toilet and a general tidy up of the hut itself.
The group worked for five days to build the woodshed, install the new toilet and paint the hut. This hut had also suffered from the vegetation around the hut crowding in and this was trimmed back to let more light into the site.
South Huxley Biv was built in 1962 and is one of only a couple of crawl in S86 bivs built with a small fire built on the side of the hut (many of the Canterbury bivs were built with the fire on the front next to the offset door). It was the very first hut restored under the Outdoor Recreation Consortium in 2014 when it received a small grant for the work in the first funding round. Geoff Spearpoint, John Abbott and Rob Brown flew into the hut in late November 2014 with basic tools after having been told the hut was in good condition and only needed a paint. It would probably be the last time a group would fly in blind like this to do a project as it soon became apparent that the rear window had been leaking and most of the rear wall was rotten. Luckily they had brought in some extra hand tools and timber enabling basic repairs to be carried out to ensure the hut would remain water tight and serviceable.
In 1995, the Waimea Tramping Club adopted Balloon Hut, and has done a fabulous job of raising funds and maintaining the hut since. In a proposal for Round 2, which continued their involvement in the care of Balloon Hut, they applied for funding to go towards the installation of a wood burner, and the build of a woodshed.
Elcho Hut was built by the New Zealand Alpine Club in 1938 and this 12 bunk hut has stood the test of time nestled into its strategic location next to the Elcho Stream. It is one of the classic old club huts in the Southern Alps and has had regular maintenance over the years by the keen volunteers from the North Otago Section of the NZ Alpine Club. By 2016 the original old wooden windows had become rotten and the decision was made to replace them with some new, aluminium-framed windows of the same size.
For the past ten years the Hurunui College Nina Valley Restoration Group have had a trap line up the Nina River as part of bringing back the birds to this valley. The valley has a remnant population of Great Spotted Kiwi, Kaka, Kea and parakeets as well as a small population of Whio (Blue Duck). In the early years the trap line only went as far as the new 10 bunk Nina Hut, but as the project gained momentum the group pushed their ambition further up the valley. The group had established a permanent storage in the small two bunk Upper Nina Biv which they used for storing camping, spare traps and cooking gear for the group on extended trips. The site had no toilet for larger groups camping here and the storage was taking up alot of space in small biv. The Backcountry Trust identified this facility as a priority for investment and put together a team to go in and do the work in December 2018.
McCoy Hut in the headwaters of the Clyde River has long been a critical facility for trans-alpine trampers heading into or out of the Gardens of Eden and Allah, as well as being a good base for recreational tahr hunting. It was one of the first S70 6-bunk huts built in the Canterbury region and sits in a strategic location on the junction of Francis and McCoy Stream; two waterways that can easily flood when the weather turns bad.