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.