Back in 2018 the DOC Wanaka office informed us that they were contemplating demolishing the old Top Forks Hut at the head of the Wilkin Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park.
Built in 1960 by deer culler and local Makarora pilot Alan Duncan, the hut pre dated the establishment of the park in 1964 and was built as a joint venture with Mt Albert Station as a base for venison recovery, recreation and mustering the head of the valley. It was a link with the heritage of the park we thought was worth saving.
The hut had been extremely well built out of heart rimu, on concrete piles, however poor maintenance and leaking cladding and flashings had led to the east and west walls becoming quite rotten. It was also originally a 4 bunk hut which due to demand had been converted to 6 short bunks. So any restoration had a number of issues to deal with in a location that sees a bit of summer demand from tramping groups to this part of the National Park.
Any rebuild involving an extension to deal with the bunk issue would need a building consent and proper design, so we contracted Red Gecko Design of Wanaka to fulfill the brief of a design that carried forward the heritage of the hut, and at the same time resulted in a building that would meet the 50 year building code test for the future. Black Peak Carpentry of Hawea were contracted to do the rebuild and over the next 16 days Zdenek and Will, with the help of a couple of others at various times, would demolish the old hut down to the floor and completely rebuild the new 8 bunk hut.
The build was finished late November 2019, but due to an unseasonably bad start to summer it was January the 2nd 2020 before the Upper Clutha Tramping Club could get in to finish the interior and exterior painting of the new hut. Assisted by Chris Milne and Graeme Stretch, the group took three full days to finish all the painting as well as make a start on a couple of tidy up jobs on the Lands & Survey park hut that was built in 1979. The Upper Clutha Tramping Club also donated $1,000 towards the project, Dulux supplied the paint, and Alpine Helicopters and Minaret Station provided free transport to get the initial three tonnes of material out to the road end as well as a very good deal on the heavy lift with their B3 Squirrel.
All up, volunteers put in some 330 hours of their own time to assist the contractors getting the technical work done and the total cost of the project including materials, labour and helicopter transport was around $55,000