Ruahine Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay – December 2021
Stanfield Hut lies on the banks of the Tamaki River West Branch, in the southeastern part of the Ruahine Range. Originally built by the NZ Forest Service in 1965, it replaced earlier hunter’s huts in the valley. The hut’s name remembers George Stanfield, who farmed nearby in the Ruahine foothills. Now over 50 years old, the hut was due for a bit of love and attention, which it certainly got from the (almost) all-women team in December 2021. The BCT’s dynamic Megan Dimozantos had this to report.
Eyre Mountains / Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park, Southland, 8–9 January 2022
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.
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – May 2021
At long last, there is once again a bivouac on the Tararua Ranges’ Neill-Winchcombe Biv – the third on site.
If it were not for the original Winchcombe Biv, Geoff Spearpoint may well have perished on a wintry Neill-Winchcombe Ridge when he was just a teenager, back in the 1960s. Spearpoint and his schoolmate retreated back to the biv, exhausted and beaten by the weather, and most likely would have succumbed to hypothermia if were not for the shelter of the small dog-box bivouac.
This was the first Winchcombe Biv, erected by the Forest Service for use by its deer cullers during the 1960s. During the mid-1980s, this dog-box (Winchcombe Biv I) was replaced by a small stand-up two-person hut: Winchcombe Biv II. However, it didn’t last long; by the 1990s it had been removed as part of a rationalisation of huts within the Tararua Range.
So it’s with a nice sense of full-circle that in his role on the Backcountry Trust Board, nearly 60 years later, Spearpoint could approve funding for Winchcombe Biv III.
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – April 2021
Located in the upper Waingawa River, Cow Creek Hut offers important shelter for a range of trips on the eastern side of Tararua Forest Park. It’s most often reached from Kiriwhakapapa on a 4-5 hour tramp over the Blue Range. Other approaches include the valley track from Mitre Flats Hut, and also the route from Roaring Stag Hut in the neighbouring Ruamahanga Valley. Built in 1960, the hut has served well for over 60 years, and remains one of the few largely unmodified NZFS S70 huts in the Tararua Range.
Recently, Cow Creek Hut had a welcome tidy-up by members of the Hutt Valley branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, who have a management agreement for upkeep of the hut with DOC Masterton. The aim is to retain these facilities as close as possible to their original design, so that they remain as examples of the huts used in the NZFS deer-culling era.
Waikiti Valley, West Coast, 4–7 November 2021
Waikiti Hut is a rarely-visited, remote 6-bunk hut situated in the middle reaches of the Waikiti River, a tributary of the Ahaura River, east of Greymouth. It is accessible on a track from the Haupiri-Amuri Road up the Waikiti River, or over the tops west of the hut via Crane and Logjam Creeks. In November, a Backcountry Trust volunteer team flew into Waikiti Hut with Ahaura Helicopters to undertake a few days of track-cutting in the area.
The team included Steph Buxton, Mauricio Lloreda and Brent Smith.
Kahurangi National Park, Nelson – April 2021
Nelson climber Ross Cullen and his mates were back in action again this year, following on from last year’s renovation of Larrikins Creek Hut. This time his focus was Ellis Hut, situated near the eastern bushedge of the Wharepapa/Arthur Range. It’s an important base for cavers exploring the local limestone labyrinths, but also hosts the occasional tramper too. The upper Ellis Basin is surrounded by the marble peaks of The Twins, Winter Peak and Mt Arthur, and even the terrain surrounding the hut features several small sinkholes.
Access to Ellis Hut from the Flora Carpark is via the Mount Arthur route, or up the long and rather arduous bush track in the Ellis River from the Baton Valley.
Kaimanawa Forest Park, Taupo – 24-26 November 2021
Oamaru Hut is perched on a river terrace above the Oamaru River, in the headwaters of the Mohaka catchment. The three-room, 12-bunk hut is popular with hunters, anglers and trampers alike, and is most often accessed on tracks through the Kaipo Valley from Clements Mill Road, or via the Poronui Access Route from Taharua Road.
Like most of the other huts in Kaimanawa Forest Park, it’s a Lockwood design, originally built in the Forest Service days during the early 1970s. While the interlocking wood design has lasted surprisingly well, the hut definitely needed a spruce-up, and happily a team led by Michael Main did just this in November.
Ruahine Forest Park - October 2021
Toka Biv had a superb makeover in 2019, when a BCT team led by Josh Murray did a complete rebuild of the old Forest Service two-person bivouac. This also included adding a new watertank, and building a new thunderbox toilet, positioned away from the tarns.
The bivvy has a lovely position in a subalpine basin on the Ngamoko Range, facing east, but the location is quite boggy. Increased use since over the last year or so meant mud was becoming a bit of an issue.
In October, Josh Murray flew back in with friend Ryan to remedy the situation
West Coast, September 2021
Scamper Torrent has a name that evokes the burbling mountain stream it is – a tributary of the mighty Waitaha River. In its headwaters lies the tidy 4-bunk Scamper Torrent Hut, which is accessed by a steep track above Morgan Gorge, in the main Waitaha Valley.
Kaimai Rideway, Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park - September 2021
Te Whare Okioki is the newest hut in the Kaimai Range, built by the Kaimai Ridgeway Trust (KRT). It was developed as part of a long-term project to complete a track and hut network along the length of this old volcanic range that separates the Waikato from the Bay of Plenty. The new 12-bunk hut was opened two years ago, in October 2019.
The KRT’s Stan Lowe recently reported on a recent working bee in the area.
Ruahine Forest Park - September 2021
Colenso Hut lies in the headwaters of the Mangatera River, in the northwestern part of Ruahine Forest Park. The 8-bunk hut takes its name from pioneering Ruahine tramper William Colenso – even though the adventurous missionary never visited this particular spot during his eight crossings of the Ruahine Range during the 1840s and 1850s. Lake Colenso, known to Māori as Kokopunui, lies nearby.
South Westland – 20-22 April 2021
Located in this superbly named tributary of the Haast River, deep in South Westland, Roaring Billy Hut is an old Forest Service-era hut. BCT Board member Geoff Spearpoint has long had an interest in the area, and in recent years has also led work parties to restore the hut in the adjacent Thomas River.
Shortly before the Roar of 2021, Geoff got a call from Jeff Rawles, one of the DOC rangers based at Haast. He was concerned about the state of the Roaring Billy Hut, which was reported as being mouldy. Rawles was concerned that the hut might not be in a good state for the expected influx of hunters. After securing funding for costs from the BCT, Geoff undertook to fix any problems, accompanied with his wife Jane Morris.
Silverpeaks Scenic Reserve, Dunedin - May 2021
The Silverpeaks Circuit Track is located within the Silverpeaks Scenic Reserve, just a 15-minute drive from Dunedin City. The 25km circuit takes 2-3 days, with accommodation at Jubilee Hut (10 bunks) and Philip J Cox Memorial Hut (4 bunks). It crosses regenerating native forest and tussock-covered schist hills. Any of the four 700m plus peaks in the area offer an almost uninterrupted panoramic view of inland and coastal Otago. The track services a local population of 140,000 Dunedin residents, and numbers using it continue to grow as day walkers, runners and trampers head out to explore the reserve.
Chalkies Scenic Reserve, Dunedin – May 2021
The Green Hut Track Group (GHTG) are a group of volunteers (mostly retired) who for the last 20 years have maintained an extensive backcountry track network across Dunedin on behalf of the DOC and the Dunedin City Council. Every Wednesday the GHTG undertake track maintenance on one or more of the 56 tracks on their list.
Dunedin’s backcountry is highly accessible to the city, and the work undertaken by the GHTG is critical to keeping many of the tracks open to the public. Without the dedicated work of this group, some tracks would have been lost.
Fiordland National Park, Southland – November-December 2020
The coastline of the Hollyford Track is one of the most magnificent in New Zealand – with sand dunes, rocky reefs, wild surf, forest right to the edge of the sea, and the backdrop of the Darran Mountains and Red Hills. Late last year, volunteers from the Hollyford Conservation Trust completed work on a section of track between Martins Bay and Big Bay, north of the Hollyford Track, facilitated by a BCT grant. In recent years, this coastal track had become heavily overgrown by vegetation, particularly kiekie and harakeke (flax).
Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park – April 2021
Over recent years, a community group have undertaken extensive work to upgrade and re-route the old North-South Track, a tramping route that traverses the length of the Kaimai Range, which divides the Bay of Plenty from the Waikato.
Called the Kaimai Ridgeway Trust (KRT), the group have cut tracks, erected huts and constructed boardwalks – all part of a vision to create a fine tramping route suitable for lesser-experienced trampers and families. Previously, large parts of the old Forest Service-era track were overgrown, swampy or without shelter.
Wairoa Valley, Nelson – April 2021
The Wairoa Gorge Mountain Bike Park lies an hour from Nelson City, deep in the Wairoa Valley, on the edge of the Richmond Range. In 2008 the land was privately purchased with the intention of creating a location that showcased some of the world’s best hand-made mountain-bike trails in the world.
While initially a private park, 'The Gorge' was slowly opened to the public. First public access came during the annual Dodzy Memorial Enduro, then around 2016, through a short-term lease to Nelson Mountain Bike Club (NMTBC) and finally via gifting of the land to the New Zealand public through the Department of Conservation, with the club securing a 40-year lease to use the trails and lodges.
Ruahine Forest Park – May 2021
The restoration of Te Ao Tūpare, formerly known as Traverse or A Frame Hut, must count as one of the most special projects ever supported by the Backcountry Trust. Over the last 18 months, dedicated members of a local hapū have transformed it from a run-down shack to a beautiful and unique whare.
Eyre Mountains/Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park, Southland – March 2021
Lincoln Hut is located in the Ōreti Valley in Southland’s Eyre Mountains, about an hour’s walk from Upper Ōreti Hut. Between 20 and 23 March, a volunteer group of three Permolat Southland members restored the 2-bunk hut, funded by the BCT, taking advantage of the transport for the Ashton Hut project, which six other Permolat Southland members were undertaking at the same time.
Tongariro National Park – March 2021
Rangipo Hut occupies a high position at almost 1600m on the eastern flanks of Mt Ruapehu, offering important shelter for trampers on the Round the Mountain track. The 20-bunk Lockwood-style hut overlooks the Rangipo Desert and Kaimanawa Ranges, and catches the morning sun – when it’s fine.
However, being so high and exposed, and hut gets a fair hammering from storms, dust and wind-blown scoria, and had been looking much the worse for wear. In March, a four-strong team did a fine job of repainting the hut, funded by the BCT.
Waitaha Valley, West Coast – March 2021
County Stream Hut occupies a bench above the Country Stream, a major tributary of the Waitaha River, which drains the formidable western ramparts of Mt Evans in the central Southern Alps. Between 18–26 March, a team of volunteers funded by the BCT flew in to complete an upgrade of the hut.
Eyre Mountains/Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park, Southland – March 2021
Ashton Hut is located above a gorge in the Ashton Burn, a tributary of the Oreti River in Southland’s Eyre Mountains. Between 20 and 23 March, a volunteer group of Permolat Southland members restored the hut, funded by the BCT.
Kaimai-Mamuku Forest Park, Bay of Plenty – February 2021
Situated near Sentinel Rock on the crest of the Kaimai Range, Motutapere Hut has recently had a significant upgrade. The hut, used by hunters and trampers, can be accessed from the Tuahu Track, or from the Mt Eliza Mine Track, both of which link with North South Track.
Waitaha Valley, West Coast – February 2021
Moonbeam Hut is situated in one of the West Coast’s most rugged valleys: the mighty Waitaha.
The Waitaha River drains part of the central Southern Alps, beginning life on the glaciers of such formidable peaks as Mt Evans, before flowing through friendly tussock flats and tumbling down terrific gorges, to finally emerge onto the farmed flats of Westland, and disgorging into the Tasman Sea. Traversing the upper Waitaha has long been a great challenge for trampers and hunters, and in recent years whitewater kayakers have discovered superb paddling.
Other huts in the valley, Ivory Lake and Top Waitaha, have been restored in recent years, and in February 2021 it was the turn of Moonbeam.