Ruahine Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay – February 2021
True to its name, Sunrise Hut faces east, and is renowned for its fine views over sunny Hawke’s Bay – although to be fair, the Ruahine weather doesn’t always play the game. Fortunately, however, the weather gods smiled recently when a BCT team re-painted Sunrise Hut.
The popular hut occupies a pleasant position right on the bushline in Buttercup Hollow. First built in 1983, using an 8-bunk Fraemohs design (similar to Lockwood) it was a pair with Barlow Hut, located in the nearby Makarora River. However, after DOC upgraded the Sunrise Track in the late 1980s, the hut soon got very popular, so in 2005 it was expanded into the 20-bunk structure of today.
During 21–23 February 2021, Sally Neal led a group of volunteers to repaint the hut, using funds granted from the BCT. The rest of the team included: Ed Cook, Aaron Neal, Helen Payn and Tobias Wevers.
Chris Crosse of East Kaweka Helicopters picked the team up from the road-end early in the morning. Sally tells the story: ‘Chris was a true pro, and soon had the five of us and all of the supplies (including mobile scaffold, a couple of ladders and multiple buckets of paint) safely up at Sunrise Hut. The two poor trampers who had stayed the night before must have got a fair shock being woken by a chopper that morning!
After settling in, the team soon identified priorities: ‘The best plan of attack was to split up and start on the harder southern and western sides, where there was the most flaking paint and mould needing removal. Those sides had clearly borne the brunt of wild weather over the last few years.’
‘We soon got into a rhythm, with some on scraping, wire brushing and sanding, and others following behind with a generous dose of Dulux Prep Wash. Finally, we did another rinse and scrub, leaving the hut ready for its first coat. The eastern and northern ends were mostly protected by the deck, and get a bit more of the sun – so they were looking pretty good, and were relatively quick to prep (just needed a few cobwebs brushed off, and a scrub with Prep Wash).’
The utility shed also needed considerable prep work. The eaves on the southern wall required builders’ bog to fill a few holes, but the excellent weather meant fairly rapid process.
‘By the end of that first day, we'd prepped everything on site, and made a decent start on the first coat of Dulux Weathershield on the western and northern walls.’
On Day 2, the team experienced one of the famous sunrises, before finishing the rest of the first coat.
Some of the soffits required several coats to get them looking tidy, as Sally observed: ‘The smoother wood boards showed up the brush strokes far more than the textured cladding on the rest of the exterior. Thankfully, the hot weather meant the paint dried well and later that afternoon we were able to get another coat on.’
There was just enough daylight to paint primer on the utility shed before ‘dinner finally called us in just after 9 p.m. A long day, but great to get so much ticked off.’
On Day 3, the team checked their previous days’ work, identified a few problem spots that needed touch-ups, specifically the ‘Lockwood’ sections, the soffits, and a few hard-to-reach spots.
As well as giving the shed a final top coat, the team also turned their attention to the track signs. ‘It was great to see what a difference it made clearing some of the surrounding growth and giving them a fresh coat of paint!’
By mid-afternoon, the team stripped the painter’s tape off, downed tools, tidied up, packed up, swept the hut, re-stacked firewood on the deck - just in time for an aerial departure. All up, the team completed about 130 person hours of solid work.
The hut and shed rooves may need some attention in the future, as well as the exterior cladding of the dormer windows.
Sally offers huge thanks to Megan at the Backcountry Trust for getting everything set up ('the mobile scaffolding was incredibly helpful'), to DOC, and to Dulux for supplying the paint.