Tararua Forest Park, Wellington – February 2022
Penn Creek Hut occupies a grassy clearing on the banks of its namesake creek, a tributary of the mighty Ōtaki River. From Ōtaki Forks, a good track leads to Penn Creek via Field Hut and Table Top, making it accessible in a long day, or an easier overnight tramp.
The six-bunker is one of a dozen or so ex-Forest Service deer-culling huts remaining in the Tararua Range, and recently got some attention from the ex-NZFS group, organised by the ever-energetic John McCann and his team of merry men. They were supported by a grant from the Backcountry Trust.
We don't often get involved in projects quite so close to the road end but when the Temple Basin Ski Club Charitable Trust approached us back in 2021 to contribute to the restoration of the historic road bridge joining the two carparks the BCT board decided there were wider backcountry access issues worthy of support.
The bridge has been identified in the Arthur's Pass National Park Management Plan as one of the last surviving original road bridges over the Southern Alps, but time had taken its toll and eventually it had failed an engineering inspection to carry vehicle traffic.
Originally built sometime during the Cobb & Co era between 1866 and 1910, the bridge had a good amount of rotten timber that needed replacing and steel strengthening to be able to take vehicles up to 3,500kg.
NZTA had previously contributed to its maintenance but it no longer met funding criteria so the Temple Basin Ski Club set about fundraising the $75,000 needed for the work. The Backcountry Trust contributed $20,000 to the final total and the work was completed in April 2022.
DOC Rangiora Ops Manager Kingsley Timpson worked closely with all parties to help bring this project together and tick off another job in the Arthur's Pass National Park Management Plan. The final build and project management was organised by the volunteers in the Temple Basin Charitable Trust.
The Temple Basin Ski Club has for many years been managing the power, water and sewage removal from this public facilities in Temple Basin, as well as at their own lodge and facilities, and this work helps to cement the ongoing partnership with community organisations who help maintain this part of the park.
The Canterbury Mountaineering Club took on the responsibility for Lockwood Shelter sometime ago and are currently looking at options to deal with the back log of deferred maintenance on this facility.
Dusky Track, Fiordland National Park, Southland – 12-15 December 2022 & 17-20 February 2023
Halfway Hut is the third hut on the Dusky Track that the Backcountry Trust's has targeted for catch-up maintenance. It is the last of the original Dusky Track huts that still had an open fire and this had recently failed an inspection and needed to be replaced.
The 12-bunk hut takes it name from being halfway up the Hauroko Burn, which provides access onto the tops of the aptly-named Pleasant Range
The roof was also past its best and was in need of the lead being removed as we are doing now for all huts in the mountain areas where there are kea present.
In December 2022, builders Clint Jarvis and Mark Williamson went in with the roofing maestro Vítek Kočandrle and Paul Chinn. Over four days they re-roofed the hut, removed the old fireplace and installed a new Wagner Cooktop wood burner. The weather was perfect the whole week and the team was able to get in and out from the Borland Saddle loading area as efficiently as possible.
The work completed by this team followed on from the renovation of Lake Roe Hut in 2021 and Spey Hut in 2020 by the Southern Lakes Branch of the NZDA.
Stage two to complete the Halfway Hut work was carried out by a Permolat Southland colunteer crew in February 2023. The team included Hayden Cohen, Garth Lornie, John McDonald, Karen Nicholson and Greg Wilson.
Waitōtara Conservation Area, Whanganui – January 2023
A team of volunteers supported by the Backcountry Trust recently spent time working on the Waitōtara Track, which links the Waitōtara River with the Matemateāonga Track in the Whanganui-Taranaki backcountry. The aim was to clear all the many windfalls on the entire track with chainsaw crews, thus completing hand-clearing work undertaken the summer before.
Ferny Gair Conservation Area, Marlborough – December 2022
Black Birch Biv occupies an elevated knoll between the Blairich and Black Birch Ranges in southern Marlborough. It’s reached on a track from near Black Birch Station, in the Awatere Valley, west of Seddon. In 2015, the bivvy was relcoated here from another site, in a joint project between the Marlborough Branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, DOC, and the Backcountry Trust. As well as moving the bivvy, the team also adding an extension (visible in above picture).
In December 2022, NZDA member Simon Wayatt led a small team in to do some more work on the bivvy, as part of a wider project doing up huts in the Ferny Gair Conservation Area (see Penk Hut and Lake Alexander Hut blogs).
Kāweka Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay – October 2022
Over a three-day weekend in spring, a hardy crew of 17 volunteers, one DOC ranger and the Backcountry Trust’s very own Megan Dimozantos set to work on a range of tracks in the eastern Kāweka Forest Park. Split into six teams, they cleared tracks by hand, and also used scrub-bars and chainsaws. In addition, the teams marked and re-poled sections of the alpine routes.