Gwavas Conservation Area, Hawke’s Bay – December 2021, January 2022
Those familiar with State Highway 50 will know the bony shapes of the Wakarara Range, rugged foothills that protrude from the plains east of the main Ruahine mountains. Surrounded by pine forest blocks, the Gwavas Conservation Area protects what remains of the area’s native bush. Perched near the summit of the area’s highest summit, Poutaki (1020m), and taking its name, is the four-bunk Poutaki Hut. It’s the last of a handful of huts that used to exist in the area. Originally built by Forest Service rangers in 1983, using cobbled together materials from the old Makaroro Base Hut, Poutaki Hut served well for almost 40 years. By 2021, however, it needed significant work.
In December 2021 and January 2022, a team organised by the Backcountry Trust’s ever-energetic Megan Dimozantos completed a full rebuild of the hut in a project that had its fair share of pandemic-related and poor weather delays.
Megan had this to report: ‘We finally got a good window of weather for our five-strong team to head up and crack into some mahi.’
'The crew consisted of Gary MacDonald (a skilled and fastidious local builder whom I felt incredibly grateful to have on the team), Wayne Knight (plumber extraordinaire), Chris Budge (all round good bloke) and Tony Cunningham (the man always first on the tools), and myself.’
‘We lost a day and a half with more weather delays, before finally Chris Crosse from East Kaweka Helicopters skilfully manoeuvred 16 loads of gear onto site in the afternoon. Then it was pretty much time for some planning, dinner and bed; ready for a full day’s work on the morrow.’
As Megan outlined, the BCT team completed the following tasks over the following five days: ‘We lifted the entire building off its foundations to enable us to replace the floor with marine ply; we replaced the roof, replaced the cladding, built a new woodshed (as always), added a breather pipe to the loo, dug out about 4 cubic metres of soil for the deck and tank stand (by hand), installed a new and extended deck, framed out the new windows, installed a new tank stand, and fitted new lining inside.’
Despite that mammoth effort, the job was not yet complete. Over a weekend in January 2021, Gary MacDonald headed to finish off the last bits and pieces. This included finishing the fire, installing the windows and guttering, plumbing in spouting to the new water-tank, securing the bunks and bench, and some final cleaning, painting and touch-ups.
Megan added, ‘Adam Greville made a lovely water-tank cover which fitted perfectly and matched the colour of the hut.’
While the fireplace still needs a code of compliance, otherwise the hut is ready for use. PanPac, the company that manages the Wakarara forestry, opened access on 11 February and it should remain open until about mid-April (when tree harvesting operations begin again). Happily, this access extends over the Roar, and now visiting hunters will be able to stay in a fully refurbished Poutaki Hut. ‘Get in there and enjoy the place,’ Megan recommends.