Waianakarua Scenic Reserve, Ōamaru – November & December 2021
Thanks to the efforts of hunters from the North Otago branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, a new hut sits proudly on a ridge-top in this bush reserve near Ōamaru. Over the rest of summer, NZDA members led by Barry Wilson will be putting the finishing touches on the new facility, named Kahikatea Lodge.
The 6-bunk hut is located in the Waianakarua Scenic Reserve, just south of the Otago town of Ōamaru. It’s well positioned on a ridge separating two hunting blocks, which will help to open up a large area of the reserve previously not hunted much.
The lodge was built through a community agreement with DOC’s Coastal Otago Office, and with funding support from the Backcountry Trust. Kahikatea Lodge will be maintained by the NZDA North Otago Branch, while becoming part of DOC’s network of huts available to the general public.
The other significant funder was the Otago Community Trust, while NZDA members themselves offset the majority of costs through fundraising and using volunteers for the planning and building. The budget was a modest $100,000.
Project leader Barry Wilson says it has been a busy and testing two-and-a-half years of effort, which involved many hours to obtain the necessary consents and reports required by DOC and the Otago Conservation Board. This included independent environmental and geotechnical assessments, resource and building consent from the Waitaki District Council, as well as consultation with Ngāi Tahu and local groups.
In November, materials were transported onto site by helicopter, and NZDA volunteers began building the hut. The building team included: Alan Holmquist as builder-in-charge, Mark Hay, Daniel O'Brien, Neil Anderson, John Ingram, Phil Thomson, Tom Burlinson (DOC Oamaru), James Symes and Barry Wilson as ‘cook and bottle washer’. Trent Landaus did the solar and lighting work.
Final tasks to complete include installing two water-tanks, both of which may be needed during dry summers, as the lodge is dependent on rain from the roof for the water supply. Wilson says he hopes everything will be completed for an opening in January 2022.
All the hard mahi has been worth it for Barry Wilson, who plans to take his grandchildren hunting in the area. Barry himself began hunting a 5-year-old, has been a keen hunter ever since, and says the Kahikatea Lodge project is a way of ‘putting back something for the future generations.’
Access to the hut takes 1.5 hours on a steep, blazed trail requiring reasonable fitness. Helicopter access is available from nearby Herbert. Local game includes red deer, pigs and feral sheep, and during the annual ‘roar’ hunting is balloted.
The only other hut in the reserve is the privately-owned Staircase Hut. Senior DOC ranger Shay van der Hurk said that Kahikatea Lodge will be ‘an excellent addition to the reserve.’