By Davey Hughes, founder of Swazi Outdoor Clothing
As hunters we’re all pretty keen to get off the beaten track. Unless of course, that track leads us back to a nice warm hut, especially at the end of a long day with a heavy carry! DOC administers something like 965 public huts scattered around the country.
What a lot of hunters probably don’t know is, the justification for maintaining these huts, along with track maintenance, is partly based on the data DOC receives from hut books. Fact is though, for whatever reason, so many hunters and trampers just don’t bother to fill them in. Which in effect means many backcountry huts and tracks run the danger of losing ongoing maintenance.
A few years back Swazi, along with the Horowhenua Hunting Club, had built a new hut up the North Ohau River in the Tararuas. Since then I’ve tried to keep abreast of how DOC run their hut system nationwide. When Wayne Costello, DOC’s South Westland Operations Manager, got in touch to ask if I’d be keen to head down to the Karangarua Valley and see how they did things on the Coast it didn’t take me long to say “Damn right!” of course, I hadn’t given a second thought to the fact that the Karangarua is awesome tahr country… no mate, not a second thought at all.
Wayne is keen to see more hunters visiting the South Westland and with the animals and spectacular country on offer it has to be on every hunters bucket list, more than once I’d suggest. My trip timing was bang on, as Wayne and his crew were in the midst of making a short film on hut and track maintenance in the back-blocks. Would I care to join them? As far as I’m concerned, anything which promotes people, young ones especially, getting into the hills is a real focus for me, so of course I was interested.
Pulling into the carpark at the Copland Valley I met with DOC staff and after quick intros we waited by my Isuzu D-Max for James Scott’s helicopter to turn up and fly us to the head of the Karangarua River and Christmas Flat Hut. We flew in over prime hunting country, so I began hoping with a bit of luck I’d be able to slip away to see if I could get a tahr or chamois in between filming… well, that’s how my brain works!
A fair few people use the hut and track system through here, but judging by entries, they just don’t fill in the hut logbooks. The reality is that if people aren’t seen to be using the huts we could lose them.
My message to hunters and trampers is, it’s not hard to fill in the huts books and pay your hut fees, maybe even offer to do a bit of volunteer work on huts and tracks and let DOC see they are being used. That way we all get to share in this amazing New Zealand backcountry – and have a decent hut to stay in at the end of a long day.