Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – January 2022
High on a spur above the Waiohine valley lies McGregor Bivouac, a classic Forest Service era two-bunk dog-box bivvy. Nestled against the edge of the forest, the bivvy has commanding views north over the upper Waiohine catchment and the peaks of the northern Tararua Range. It’s most often reached from the Holdsworth Road end via the Atiwkahatu and Jumbo tracks. From Jumbo, a route over the tops, past Angle Knob, leads to a signposted turnoff that descends to the bivouac.
Built in 1966, the bivouac has been maintained over the years, but recently reports of it leaking reached John McCann, the man behind the ex-NZFS team. McCann organised for two members of the volunteer group, Grant Timlin and Roy Winterburn, both ex-cullers, to walk in and inspect the bivouac. They found that when the bivouac got new piles some years ago, this had exposed the bottom bearers. They also discovered that many of the old clouts in the cladding had completely rusted through.
McCann talked through options with Megan Dimozantos, the Backcountry Trust’s North Island manager. One option was a completely re-roof and cladding, and the other was replacing the clouts with screws and rubber washers. McCann, however, felt a complete re-clad was unnecessary, and that the screws would give the bivouac a ‘pimply’ appearance, undermining its authenticity. One the guiding principles of the exNZFS is to retain originality when possible.
Accordingly, Grant Timlin and Roy Winterburn flew in by helicopter in February 2022, and replaced all the clouts with new ones. They also added a skirting to protect the bearers from the weather, and replaced the window. An unoriginal ceiling seemed to be retaining moisture inside the hut, so this was removed. McCann hopes these solutions will keep the bivvy watertight.
The ex-NZFS team now maintains some 16 huts in the Tararua and Aorangi Ranges, and aims to ensure huts from the NZFS deer-culling era have a long life ahead. Next in their sights is some work on the Mid King Bivouac.