Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – March 2022
Herepai is one of the most northerly huts in the Tararua Range, set in a small bush clearing above Ruapae Stream, and a launching pad for trips across the rugged tops beyond. It was built in 1980 by NZ Forest Service rangers Hans Kolinko and Mark Hunter, with assistance from members of the Pahiatua-based Bush Tramping Club. Unfortunately, Herepai Hut has received little attention in recent years and was in very poor condition.
Happily, in March a huge effort by Backcountry Trust volunteers – led by the irrepressible builder Steve Wilman – completely transformed the ailing hut. As well as doing behind-the-scenes organising, the BCT’s Megan Dimozantos was there on the tools as well. The rest of team included Fiona Burleigh, Tina Christie, Matt Falepau and Roy Rolston.
Megan had this to report: ‘The deck and front steps were rotten, and the rusty back wall had holes. The roof was original, and by our reckoning about ten years overdue for replacement. After vandalism to the hardboard walls inside, someone had lined the hut with ugly sheet metal.’
‘Matt set to work on the scrub bar for two whole days to tackle the badly overgrown hut surrounds. He also shovelled about a cube of soil to flatten out the slope of the heli-pad. Meanwhile, Roy dug out grass stumps to prevent them growing back.’
‘Tina and Fi cleared a nearby area, put some piles in, and constructed the flatpack woodshed. As per usual, we used old roofing material for cladding, but this was in such poor condition we had to overlap it. With the old wood-box removed from the deck, we should see less rot and rats!’
‘Meanwhile, Steve and I tackled the old roof, which had been leaking for a long time. We spent three long, hard days in the harness; ripping off the old iron, cleaning away rat crap and chewed-up insulation, punching out the ceiling, laying structural ply as the new sarking, then fitting new purlins, self-supporting underlay and finally, a new Scoria red Coloursteel roof. Steve finished off the bargeboards, flashing and capping.’
‘Roy and Steve stripped the external cladding off the back wall and replaced it with shiny new Karaka corrugate, all flashed and with a new anti-pest strip.’
‘Steve replaced the dinted fire flue, and also installed a rather flash new aluminium door (with glass panels!). We ripped the rest of the lining out and prepped the new one for painting.’
‘Fi, Tina and Roy prepped the outside for painting, including treating individual nail holes for rust. I demolished the old deck and rebuilt it.’
Time ran out after that first massive effort, but happily another crew went in later in March to finish things off. Steve, Megan, Tina and Fi were this time joined Holly Darton and Anthony Behrens.
Steve reported: ‘Returned on a very late Thursday night after work to complete our mission as best as we could with carry-in tools, materials and personal gear. Happily the weather played ball and all jobs got completed, including the painting. A further three days on the tools. We also removed more than 1.1 tonnes of waste and rubbish.’
‘During my 20 years as a scout leader I’ve worked with hundreds of volunteers and couldn’t fault this great team. They gave their all on this renovation: blood sweat and tears – and there were tears at times. Big thanks also to Reece at DOC for the ongoing support.’
Check out the video from Roy at: