Fiordland National Park – February 2021
Built in 1968, Lake Roe Hut is a classic Fiordland National Park design that has long served trampers and hunters visiting the area. Not much more than a garage, this cost-effective 12-bunk design was, however, a little too lightweight for a location on the Fiordland bushline. Over the decades, repeated snowfalls assaulted the roof. By the late-1990s it had developed quite a sag, and begun to leak.
Back in 2018 the Backcountry Trust ran a Give-a-little campaign to raise money to repair the hut. Retired Fiordland ranger Ken Bradley offered to help organise the project. Just under $3,000 was raised, and combined with funding from the Backcountry Trust, this provided the budget for Ken to start pulling the materials and logistics together. However, over the last couple of summers good weather and the availability of busy builders never seemed to coincide, so the materials sat in storage for 18 months.
To kick-start the project again, Wanaka builders Clint Jarvis and Mark Williamson were booked for a block of time. With Paul Chinn and Rob Brown as hammer hands and painters, they managed to snatch a weather window to complete the job in February 2021. Fortunately, the team anticipated structural issues with the roof. So the materials flown onto site included a new 190X45mm ridge beam, as well as new rafter timber. This turned out to be a wise precaution as the old ridge beam had broken and three sets of rafters also needed replacing. A simple re-roofing project had morphed into an entire re-build of the roof structure.
Over five long days, the team completed the work, helped by pretty pleasant weather. During the day, kea often cried, and one or two nights, Tokoeka kiwi called.
Rob Brown recalls, ‘As luck would have it, the only Dusky Track trampers turned up on the day when we were rebuilding the roof … so we were in a race against time against the predicted evening rain. The seven patient souls waited till 9 p.m. under a tarp as the drissle started before we could say that all was well and they would have a roof over their head for the night.’
The team also removed all remaining lead from the hut to protect kea from accidental poisoning. Lake Roe Hut is now set to better handle the winter snows for the next half-century as it continues to shelter people enjoying the challenge of the infamous Dusky Track.