Hunters join with DOC to save huts

Pete Huggins —  16/04/2012
Hunters and DOC Rangers at Motutapere Hut.

Hunters and DOC Rangers at Motutapere Hut

By Pete Huggins

Backcountry hut maintenance is being done by local hunting clubs in the Tauranga area through an agreement with DOC. This is great because it means we can do more, using skills that come from outside the Department.

About seven years ago we were planning on removing some of the old Forest Service goat cullers’ huts from the southern Kaimai ranges between Tauranga and Katikati. There are several of these basic huts along the North South Track. No longer in use by DOC staff, these huts were in bad shape and the plan was to simply remove them.

One of the local Deerstalkers’ Associations really wanted the huts to stay. So DOC embarked on a relationship that has culminated in several hut upgrades and a community partnership to maintain access to the backcountry Kaimai forests. Deerstalkers love these huts and want to protect them.

Motutapere Hut makeover

At the beginning of March this year a working bee was held to make Motutapere Hut weather-tight and improve the facilities for hunters. Members of Thames Valley and Bay of Plenty Deerstalkers Associations worked alongside DOC rangers for three days, removing the old iron cladding and replacing it with treated plywood boards, plus a new roof, porch and chimney. Merlin Rohan (17) and Jordan Ogilvie (18) joined Matt Gyde and Kody Williams from DOC to get the work done.

Montage showing the hut and people working.

Iron cladding was removed, a new porch was built and new cladding fixed

What the boys said

Merlin is from Thames and has worked with DOC before, laying traps in the Kauaeranga Valley. His father is a carpenter so Merlin brings his skills and experience to the job. He told me his favourite part of the trip was the good kai provided by Jordan, who cooked for the lads on the trip.

Jordan took leave from his engineering job to help with the working bee and is passionate about backcountry hunting. He told me it makes sense because access to the bush is free, in a world where most things are getting dearer. He said that the feeling of walking all day and finding the hut at the end is a great, great, feeling. He also said that everyone needs to pitch in.  Jordan’s worst moment on the trip was waiting for the chopper to arrive, but I think he was pretty stoked when it did arrive to ferry him up to the hut!

View of the inside of Motutapere Hut

The hut is now cosier and has an extra bunk space

Job well done

This is the fourth and final local hut maintenance job in recent times, all of which have been joint operations between DOC and local hunters. Just last year the Kauritatahi Hut (with the finest view from any hut in the district) got a makeover including a new deck, roof and cladding. In addition to helping with refurbishment of the hut, hunters are now helping to maintain the track to and from the hut, and are doing regular hut inspections. Kauritatahi Hut is now getting much more use from trampers, who are taking overnight trips just to sit on the deck and enjoy the view. The hut book was full of entries showing that the hut gets good use despite its ageing character. From now on both hunters and trampers will find these huts much more comfortable.

Do you have a favourite DOC hut? What do you like about it?

Steel ladder on the way to Motutapere Hut.

The area around the hut is steep with amazing views of Tauranga Harbour and the Waikato, this steel ladder at the summit is quite a thrill!

Thames Valley Deerstalkers are big on community involvement and DOC is better off for working alongside them on this project. Their President Maureen Coleman told me she has nothing but praise for the way DOC staff have responded to them, saying we are fantastic to work with. She reckons the project has built bridges between hunters and DOC, overcoming some of the “communication problems” in the past.

Are you a hunter? What do you think about DOC huts?

Postscript: Trivia about the hut

Built as a goat culling hut in the 1970s, Motutapere Hut has been moved several times during its lifetime. It was sited at Whakamarama and then on the Te Tuhi track to assist with eradication of goats, before finishing at Sentinel Rock which was a hotspot for goats in the mid 1980s. In those days the NZ Forest Service had a full time team of goat cullers for the Kaimai Ranges. How times have changed!

The hut has four bunk spaces and a rainwater tank. It also has mobile phone reception!

Pete Huggins


Based in Tauranga, I work for DOC and do public engagement work such as working bees, volunteer training days, education, media and publications. Our patch includes the Kaimai ranges and all the historic mining and logging remains there, a large remnant wetland on the Kaituna River, and we also help look after several offshore islands including Tuhua / Mayor Island. My top local spot is the Karangahake Gorge with all the cool mining tunnels and a beautiful scenic river. Go explore it!

13 responses to Hunters join with DOC to save huts

    the complete ballet bible package 18/12/2012 at 7:48 pm

    Greetings! I’ve been following your website for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!

    tawhai rickard 12/06/2012 at 11:18 pm

    yep common sense must win the day when man meets bush. the golden rule (when you find that your lost, keep put, make the most of your surroundings and resources) i have been speaking in view of my daughters case and not the full picture. perhaps sign posting along the track near the school camp within the bush may suffice but i reckon the signs will have to weigh a tonne and be quite indestructable. at the end of the day safety elements must also win the day (when children meet bush!) thank you all for good comments.

      tawhai rickard 12/06/2012 at 11:24 pm

      p.s just kidding about the weight of the signs but what can you do!!! i just think there needs to be something in place for these kids in the unfortunate event. cheers

    Gordon Sylvester 09/06/2012 at 9:36 am

    It does not matter how many huts you have along a track of how big they are. People still get disorientated when in the Bush.
    The other issue is vandalism of the huts.
    Anyone who enters the “bush” particularly inexperienced people should have a competent experienced person
    accompanying them.
    I know the argument. “But there is a good track” People get confused very easily in low light levels and when tired or panicking.
    Getting into the bush is an excellent choice for anyone of any age. But make sure they are experienced. We all had to learn how at some stage on our lives.
    The most important thing here was the children were safe. But did need to have been advised to stay at or near the hut. they found. Lack od experience was the fault here I believe.
    I have been involved in SAR in the 1960’s and 1970’s and still take care when in the bush.

      Pete Huggins 11/06/2012 at 10:56 am

      Gordon – yes planning and preparation are vital.
      Tawhai Rickard – I see your point, perhaps if the school or another organisation wanted to organise and manage a hut we could talk about the possibility for a partnership, however as you will see from the main article and comments, the pressure has been to remove DOC huts rather than add more.

    tawhai rickard 02/06/2012 at 1:29 pm

    awesome work doc, i have a daughter who was one of the ten that went missing and thankfully found on tue 29th may 2012 in the kaimais while on a school camp. when i showed her an image of the hut she mentioned they came across she said “yep thats it” she also recognised the chimney and the interior. she urged the others to camp there the night but was unsuccesfull in persuading them. she said they found chicken soup packets (within due date) and made a fire outside and gained much needed fuel for the nights challenge. im gratefull for the rescue teams involved and such huts which make a welcome sight for hunter and needy tramper alike. because the ngamuwahine school camp grounds is an ongoing essential part of the landscape it maybe advisable to pepper suchlike huts along the kaimai tracks in relation to the school camp use with emergency and survival elements to avert any further tragedy. i know this would take time, security measures, resources and money but its something the government (chiefly), communitty and schools could sink their teeth into. what do you all think?

      Pete Huggins 08/06/2012 at 3:19 pm

      Those huts all look alike – I am picking they could have reached Hurunui Hut, but the one in this story is too far away.

      Real pleased they were found safe and sound, those Search and Rescue folks are amazing.

      Thanks for your comment

        tawhai rickard 09/06/2012 at 12:00 am

        youre welcome Pete and thank you, yes the rescue folk are amazing and are pretty much unsung heros. i believe they were found some 10 k’s away from the loop track where they went missing and roughly 20min walk from hut. (if thats any indication)
        in any case what do you think about a hut or two closer to the ngamuwahine school camp along the tracks there to aid any simmilar event that may happen in the future?


    What a shame DoC Wanganui didnt have the same attitude as the Tauranga DoC when they pulled down and didn’t replace four hunters’ huts in the Waitotara State forest area. In contrast to Tauranga’s recognition of the public’s interest, one of the huts they removed had been built as a replacement by the public, certified by the Wanganui building inspector, and supported by the then Minister of Conservation Nick Smith who over rode DoC Wanganui’s resistance to the hut. Later, Minister Chris Carter allowed DoC to fell this hut because they told him this tree surrounded hut was not strong enough to cope with high winds. Once it was down the reason they gave in the paper was “not enough use”!
    The real reason was that they were annoyed that people questioned their actions. Now the two public access tracks to this area have been hijacked by adjacent farmers who do their best to prevent people getting into the area.
    Isn’t it great what can be achieved when people feel appreciated by DoC. Go Tauranga!

      Pete Huggins 07/05/2012 at 3:19 pm

      Kia ora Audrey
      Thanks for your message of support for a new way of working in partnership with communities.

    Pete Huggins 17/04/2012 at 2:56 pm

    Hi Gordon. Glad you enjoyed the story – do you still manage to get out into the backcountry at all?

    In Tauranga we do track maintenance all year round but focusing on different parts of the Kaimai on a three-yearly rotation. Hopefully we haven’t nuked any orchids along the way, that sounds pretty frustrating.

    Let me know if you are up our way and I will point out some of the nicer walks.


      Gordon Sylvester 17/04/2012 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Pete.
      Yes I still get out hunting. Was on Mt Harper over Easter chasing Chamioux.. I am always interested in orchid sites.
      I am the mapping coordinator for the NZ Native Orchid Group and have been studying the orchids for more than 40 years both here in the SI. as well as in the NI. REcently was at Wairere falls looking at them and a little later over to Te Kauri. Where we found aan new species. Which I also saw just out of Benneydale on the side of the road. Pt. emarginata.
      Anyway next time up that way I will definitely be in touch.
      Oh and by the way I was one of the Deercullers working in the Northern Kaimanawas cutting the track from Kaipo to The Tauranga-Taupo River in the late 1960’s

    Gordon Sylvester 16/04/2012 at 7:39 am

    At last some sense from DoC. Too long the Dept adopted a “Slash and Burn”policy towards Back Country Huts. As an old hunter(started in 1962} Over the years I have used a Few of these huts in didfferent parts of the country. My focus has changed as abuse has been catching up with my body. I now have another crusade. DoC do the track side maintenance at the star of winter and get someone on boards who knows there plants.
    I know of one site “cleaned by Doc. and a compelete habitat of rare native orchids was completely destroyed. In Kelly Stream. Arthurs Pass National Park. By the refurbishment of a sign.
    So good work about the huts. Now to learn about the native flora and recognise that as well.