Skip to the loo

Department of Conservation —  22/04/2013

Margaret Metcalfe from the Manawatu Rangitikei Area Office writes about a novel approach being taken to paint a new backcountry toilet in the Ruahine ranges.

It is not often you would look forward to the experience of using a backcountry toilet. However, an interesting approach to finishing new visitor facilities in the Western Ruahine Forest Park will have people wanting to make the trip especially to check them out.

Julie Oliver painting the toilet.

Painting the loo

Inspired by seeing public toilets painted with murals, Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Assets Manager Andrew Mercer thought he could bring a similar concept to the new outbuildings at Rangiwahia Hut. “I wanted the new toilet and woodshed to complement the landscape and to tell a conservation story,” he said, “and at the same time add another element to the visitor experience, something that might encourage people come up especially to see”. This is a very special location for its breathtaking views on to the Ruahine range and active bird life. And the murals reinforce these aspects.

Julie waving while painting the backcountry toilet.

Saying hello

A conversation with Mangaweka artist Julie Oliver sparked the project off. She jumped at the opportunity, saying it was just the challenge she needed to give herself a break from her usual style of painting fine detail in oils. It wasn’t until she was actually on site that she could finalise her ideas. The results are simply incredible! Seeing buildings emerge out of the natural landscape, complementing the backdrop of the ranges and sky, and featuring New Zealand native birds typical of the location. “It was so gratifying to be up there immersed in the landscape, listening to the birds and painting it all at the same time”.

Ms Oliver took four days to complete the two buildings with a lot of help from her partner Tim. Using six basic colours from Dulux “Colours of New Zealand’ range she completed it all with brush and sponge to blend the colours. Some of the challenges included painting lines onto corrugated iron, keeping on her feet with uneven ground around the buildings and all the variables associated with weather conditions typical of a changeable mountain environment such as wind, rain, sun, ice and fog.

Julie relaxing by the backcountry toilet.

Dulux supplied the paint at no cost

Dulux supplied the paint at no cost as part of a three year “Protecting Our Places” partnership with DOC that will see recreation and historic assets all around the country painted and, as in this case, upgraded for public’s enjoyment.

The loo finished.

The finished product

Photos shown courtesy of Julie Oliver.

2 responses to Skip to the loo


    Those pale colours will stick out like a sore thumb. I go tramping to look at and photograph the hills, forest and wildlife, not to see buildings from miles away. Sorry, but that’s a real eyesore and dissapointing to see the department going away from the dark natural colours than dissapear into and don’t spoil the environment.


    What an awesome idea! Who needs utiliarian sheds when you can have these beautiful works of art