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.
The 4-bunk Mullins Hut occupies a pleasant basin in the mid-reaches of Mullins Creek, one of Toaroha’s larger tributaries. It’s reached on a steep track, upstream of Cedar Flats, which remains in good condition after Permolat members re-cut it in 2019. The original hut was built in 1960, so had served well for over 70 years, but needed replacement.
Between 23 February and 2 March 2021, a seven-strong team of volunteers completely rebuilt Mullins Hut, using a grant from the BCT.
The team, organised by Richard Shields, included Geoff Joyce, Lawrie Mead, Leanne O'Brien, Pam and Grant Stevens, and Armin Thurma. They hail from places as disparate as Northland, Auckland and Wakatipu.
Richard writes, ‘With people arriving on flights from the North Island, we were committed to that week to do the job – despite the forecast. With great help from Nigel and Miquel at DOC, plus Anderson Helicopters, we flew in a day early before the rain started and got the old hut shifted to act as a shelter.’
Engineer Grant Stevens and architect Armin Thurma designed the new hut to resemble the original NZFS ‘S81’ design. Over the next week, the hard-working team made steady progress installing four new anchor piles, framing, fixing the new flat iron cladding, roof, windows and door, and adding an ‘eyebrow’ (veranda over door). The changeable weather provided just enough fine breaks to paint the new cladding. One of the most satisfying jobs was installing a new Wagner Sparky fire, donated by Permolat. As Richard observed, ‘it works a treat’.
The team also built a woodshed, using materials salvaged from the old hut. The last jobs included installing the old bunks and stainless steel benches. Additionally, Armin crafted some shelving from old rimu, plus a couple of bench seats. After a clean-up, they managed to fit all waste materials in the new alloy crate, ready for flying out.
Richard concludes: ‘We are grateful to DOC Hokitika and the BCT for their trust in us to have a crack at this project in such an amazing place.’