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.
Finally ‘all the ducks were in a row’ for 30-31 January 2021.
Other members of the team included Murray Hunt and Neale Dale. The BCT’s Rob Brown and DOC’s Jeff Coulter also accompanied them. What had become a fairly complicated logistical exercise required a detailed safety briefing from the Helicopter Line pilot. First, he flew flew Rob and Jeff to Huxley Forks, then carried on to Brodrick with Murray and Mike. They began dismantling the old long-drop, and rolled it into the net ready for extraction.
The pilot flew back to the roadend, attached a long-line strop to the new toilet (with the new meat-safe inside), then flew back to Huxley Forks, where Rob and Jeff extracted the new meat-safe, ready for installation. The pilot then flew on to Brodrick and successfully lowered the new toilet down through a small clearing in the forest canopy. After the old toilet was attached to the strop, the pilot flew it out, leaving Mike and Murray to secure the new one over the existing dunny hole.
Finally, the pilot flew Rob and Jeff to South Huxley Biv for an inspection, then to Brodrick Hut to pick up the rest of the team, and made a side-trip to Cullers Hut in the Hopkins for one last inspection.
So ended a tale of dangling dunnies, moving meat-safes and opportunistic hut inspections.
As project leader Mike Lagan commented, ‘The project was meant to be the smallest, easiest project I had done’ but unavoidable delays meant the whole operation had taken two years ‘from conception to completion’. Perhaps because of that, Mike felt a huge sense of satisfaction. ‘Maybe it was the great company and the good weather, the planning that when put in practice worked out perfectly, or just maybe to get that toilet from my backyard to where it belongs …