Totara treasure in the Tararuas trashed

Department of Conservation —  21/07/2015

By Joe Hansen, Service Ranger, Masterton

Historic Cone Hut has stood for the best part of 70 years in picturesque mature forest at the top end of the Tauherenikau Valley in the Tararua Ranges north of Wellington.

The historic Cone Hut in Tararua Forest. Photo: Beverley Bacon.

Cone Hut

Built using local totara timbers, adzed into framing and split into slab walls – Cone Hut is one of the best surviving examples of a ‘slab hut’ in New Zealand.

This totara treasure has sheltered many generations of visitors over the years, so it was sad to hear that vandals had recently made a mess of it.

Paint and rubbish had been strewn all around the interior and the hut was in a sorry state.

The floor of Cone Hut covered in paint and rubbish.

The floor covered in paint and rubbish.

When we heard about the vandalism, Senior Ranger Hayden Barrett, sent two rangers into the hills to clean the hut as best they could. In the meantime, talks about the fate of the old hut began with the Tararua Tramping Club.

The Club had built Cone Hut in the late forties and it was obvious that no one wanted to see the hut pulled down, even though it was in a perilous state.

To make the hut more comfortable, the floor and the bunks needed attention and firewood would need to be stacked outside. It was decided that a proper wooden floor should go in over the dirt floor and plywood should be installed on the platform bunks to give hut users a comfortable night’s sleep.

Tararua Tramping Club members Colin Cook and Ken Fraser at Cone Hut.

Tararua Tramping Club members Colin Cook and Ken Fraser at Cone Hut

We were all excited when a kitset wood shed was offered to be flown in.

The shed would be clad with totara slabs that were left over from the Hutt Valley Tramping Club’s old Baines Hut in the Orongorongo Valley, which was pulled down a few years ago. This meant that the wood shed would blend in perfectly and be a fitting part of our backcountry heritage.

DOC rangers building the wood shed at Cone Hut.

Building the wood shed

Last Monday three DOC staff and three Tararua Tramping Club members flew into Cone Hut with Amalgamated Helicopters and all the necessary tools and materials to carry out the job.

The woodshed went up without a hitch and the tramping club crew ripped up and dug out the old floor ready for their club working bee later this month.

It’s fantastic to see Cone Hut being restored for many more generations to enjoy.

The completed woodshed with DOC staff Dave Titchener, Jason Lange and Joe Hansen.

The completed woodshed with DOC staff Dave Titchener, Jason Lange and Joe Hansen

Cone Hut is best accessed from Waiohine roadend, on the Holdsworth – Kaitoke Track. It is free to stay in.

5 responses to Totara treasure in the Tararuas trashed

    John Montgomerie 26/07/2015 at 3:27 pm

    Great stuf TTC, wonder what the vandals look like, just as well I was not there! Only little comment would be that a tin flashing over the roof at the front fascia board to stop ingress of rain under the iron. John M.


    Someone had mentioned in passing they thought Cone Hut might be pulled down because of rotten vandals. So pleased to hear that it is staying and has had the TLC it deserves. Great history and lots of memories. Thank you TTC and DOC. 🙂


    So sad that people would do that! I stayed there last summer and drew the hut and have since done a large painting of it.

    The new woodshed looks good!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Positive News for Cone Hut | Windy Hilltops - July 30, 2015

    […] Some have probably already seen this, but following my earlier post regarding the vandalism of Cone Hut, Stuff reports that there’s been a positive and concerted effort to repair and restore it to a state better than what it was in previously. Most of the thanks goes to DOC staff and volunteers from the Tararua Tramping Club, and a more direct source of info than Stuff’s report can be found in DOC’s blog. […]