Ruahine Forest Park, January 2021
Shutes Hut lies in the northern Ruahine Range, set on a terrace above the Taruarau Valley. Very unusually for the North Island, the hut is built of stone, and owes its existence to the pioneering days when plucky musterers tried to farm sheep in this tough mountain country.
Alex Shute worked as a rabbiter for Poporangi Station, and in 1920 he built the hut with E. Smith, using local stone. Shute lived there for many years, and was quite a character. Now more than a century old, Shutes Hut is one of the most venerable shelters remaining in the North Island from this pastoral period. These days, the hut remains a welcome haven for hunters, fishers and trampers. On 16-18 January 2021, a team of three BCT volunteers – Jason Cheetham, Lennart Prinzre and Sam Warren – painted Shutes Hut, giving it a pleasing change from orange to red.
JASON TELLS THE STORY:
‘I became aware of the Back Country Trust (BCT) about a year ago after seeing YouTube videos of Josh Murray’s Toka Biv rebuild in the Ruahine Range (February 2020). The video inspired me to find out more and a few months later I put my name down as a volunteer with Megan Dimozantos, the BCT’s North Island Project Coordinator. Then in early December 2020 I received the ‘Summer Paint a Hut’ email from the BCT, and within 20 minutes I had messaged prospective team members and replied ‘yes’.
'Being Tauranga-based, I preferred a northern Ruahine option, and Shutes Hut looked like a really interesting spot. Luckily, after getting in touch with Megan, we were informed Shutes Hut was a go ...
'Sam, Lennart and I enjoyed three days miles away from civilisation in the Ruahine Range and painted one of New Zealand’s older huts. I don’t think any of us realised quite how much history the hut had, and that the man who had built it lived there for 12 years. The hut book is different to most. In 1985, hunter Paul Sanderson purchased an extra large book and left it in the hut with the intent of others being able to write as much as they liked. Now, the book is a real treasure, full of heart-felt stories, poems and yarns about life and loved ones at Shutes Hut.
'Day 1 saw us being picked by East Kaweka Helciopters’ pilot Chris Crosse at Kuripapango. After 10 minutes flying over spectacular gorges on the Ngaruroro River, we arrived at Shutes Hut. The first day we cleared scrub and did all the wire-brushing, sanding and cleaning under a very hot sun. We were glad when the cool of that first evening arrived, and we were able to check out the trout in the Taruarau River.
'We spent Day 2 finishing the first coat and starting the second coat, with a rather worrying shower in the evening – but luckily the paint had already had a few hours to cure.
'Day 3 was much cooler and windier, and we finished off around 11 a.m. After an InReach message to pilot Chris, he picked us up at 12:15. p.m.
'Thank you Megan and the Back Country Trust for the opportunity. Hopefully everyone likes the new colour!’
[Ngā mihi Jason, Sam and Lennart – the red looks great.]