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 South Canterbury Recreational Sportman’s Club contracted Paul Smith Earthmoving who helped the project and the planning and generously quoted a cost effective price for the use of the machinery. In late June 2020 a convoy, including a telehandler and a tandem drive tipper with ramp trailer and 6 tonne digger onboard, began the slow trip to the Growler track area from the Mesopotamia Station road end. The trip involved several stream and river crossings, and the truck became stuck in a bit of soft riverbed at one point just before entering the Havelock river bed. Thankfully, they were able to get the truck unstuck with the assistance of the digger, which was unloaded from the trailer.
Work to repair the track started with removing the soil from between the ruts with the digger and mounding this soil on the airstrip side of the track. Once this was completed, shingle from the Camp Stream fan was loaded into the truck by the telehandler, to be dumped on the track and shaped by the digger. Things were going well, until a slow leak meant that on the way back to the hut for the night, the tyre rolled off the rim of the telehandler. Zack Bennett and Neale Dale took the wheel into Geraldine for repair and returned to Growler Hut at 2am the following morning. Thanks to their efforts, the wheel was refitted at sunrise and work recommenced, being finally completed by 2pm the same day.
Altogether around 285 volunteer hours were put into the Growler Hut access project, restoring the designated track, while also preserving the airstrip beside it for the many recreational pilots landing in the valley.