After visiting Renata Hut on a slight detour while walking the Tararuas in 2013, local hunters and trampers Grant Timlin and Barry Durrant were disappointed to find the old building in a sad state of repair.
Grant had hoped with the change of ownership from its original builders, the Wellington Catholic Tramping Club, to the Department of Conservation, a bit of maintenance might have been done in the subsequent years. Numerous groups expressed an interest, but nothing happened and the hut continued to be vandalised and decline.
After a discussion with the Chair of exNZFS, John McCann, the hut was added to their portfolio of huts they are looking after in the Tararua’s and they began planning to restore the hut back to a valued refuge in this part of the Tararua Ranges.
Thanks to some negotiation by Barry, Larry Reddington allowed access to Antler Lodge in the Maymorn area, giving them access to a helipad and storage shed within three kilometres of Renata Hut. The two and half tons of materials and gear was then able to be flown in by Amalgamated Helicopters in late 2019. Larry’s help was significant with this as the alternative loading site would mean they would have had to cover more than four times the distance and altitude.
Stage one of the plan involved removing the roof and strengthening the roof truss structure with sarking and extra timber. The old wooden windows were rotten and needed replacing and the budget allowed for re-roofing the hut. Thomas Plumbing and Gas of Waikanae, who not only generously provided materials at cost, but also allowed access to their workshop for cutting and folding flashings for the windows and roof. Paint for the project was provided, free of charge, by Dulux as part of their sponsorship arrangement with DoC, for sprucing the place up once the heavy work had been completed.
With all of the logistics and materials organised and prepared, Grant and Barry were able to fly in early December 2019 in fine, calm weather, and spend the first couple of days removing rotten windows and framing, and dwanging the rear wall in preparation for the plywood lining.
Two days later they were joined by Aaron Jack, an ex roofing contractor, who arrived by foot very early in the morning. They then set about removing half of the old roof, and thirteen hours later had half of a new roof on the hut, including fitting the ply sarking and barge flashing. As Aaron left the next day, Dave Thomas arrived who, thanks to his very generous employers, was able to remain for the next week.
Over that week they were able to remove and replace what remained of the old roof, flashed and installed the new windows into the freshly repaired framing, completed the interior lining, installed a new stainless steel cook bench, replaced the leaky cowling on the chimney and repaired other leaks, and built a floor in the lean-to to make it a more usable space.
Thanks to the highly skilled volunteers, who put in around 900 hours of hard work, the bulk of the project was completed in ten days, which happens to be the time it took to build the basic structure back in 1954, and Renata Hut is fit for purpose once again. Another great restoration project pulled off by the dedicated exNZFS crew in the Tararua Ranges.