Kahurangi National Park - October 2020
Roaring Lion Hut sits near the confluence of the Karamea and the Roaring Lion Rivers, and recently got some welcome attention from a team of retired builders, led by Bill Barnett, and funded by the Backcountry Trust.
The Karamea is the mightiest river in Kahurangi National Park, gathering volume from its headwaters near the Wangapeka Track before flowing north, and arcing westwards at Karamea Bend before its final boulder-choked surge to the sea. The Murchison Earthquake of 1929 caused huge landslides, and created new lakes and some serious whitewater, which has since offered some of the finest and hardest commercially rafted rapids in the country.
Roaring Lion is one of the remoter huts on the Karamea River, with no formal tracks to it, and positioned close to the Tasman Wilderness Area. It’s a non-standard 5-bunk hut, constructed in part from another hut at Questa Creek in 1958. Since then, the hut has been substantially modified to meet the needs of fishers, paddlers and hunters who are the main visitors. DOC have continued to maintain the hut, giving it a significant upgrade in 2001, installing a new woodburner in 2013, and re-painting it every decade or so.
Despite this good work, by 2020, Roaring Lion Hut needed a significant upgrade. In March, DOC staff cleared vegetation around the hut and created a new helicopter pad to allow room for a verranda.
The Roaring Lion team included retired builders Bill Barnett (team leader), Tom Brown, Robin Turton and Dennis Fairburn, with support from DOC’s Tom Young. Barnett and Brown were part of the team that constructed the existing Sabine Hut (Nelson Lakes) back in 2002. Covid-19 threw the team a curveball, delaying work for several months, but finally it was all go for spring 2020. Helicopters Nelson flew in people, materials, food and tools so work could began in late October.
The work included: replacing 12 piles, adding a porch and verandah to provide for storage, fitting a new plywood floor, adding new joists under the floor, building a woodshed, replacing the roof, and removing the lead ridge cap to reduce the risk of poisoning kea.
Some of the old piles fell apart upon removal, so the upgrade proved exceptionally timely!
Barnett decided to use 6-rib Endura Coloursteel rather than the standard corrugated iron, and also affixed a wire cage around the chimney in an attempt to stop curious kea attacking the rubber boot. Old roofing iron was effectively recycled into the new woodshed.
ITM Motueka generously supplied materials at cost, and Dulux supplied paint through their partnership with DOC. Many thanks to the generosity of these businesses. The entire project cost $16,000, of which $6000 included materials. Due to the remoteness of the hut, helicopter transport was more expensive than anticipated, so the project ran about 10% over budget, but was met with a top-up from the BCT.
Great work team … the Lion lives to roar another day.