Trampers heading to two popular huts in Mount Aspiring National Park will have to book their bunk this summer, as DOC moves to manage growing numbers in the park.
Brewster and Siberia huts will be bookable on the DOC website from December 1 to April 8.
“We want people to be safe and comfortable – having a booking system means we can ensure the correct hut capacity is maintained and provide trampers with a guarantee of a bed at these huts,” DOC Central Otago operations manager Mike Tubbs says.
Siberia Hut is a popular destination on the Gillespie Pass Circuit, while Brewster Hut is a popular overnighter and a base for mountaineers wishing to explore the alpine tops.
DOC Central Otago district senior ranger Annette Grieve said last summer Siberia Hut had 2081 hut nights and 287 camp nights. The hut was at capacity for 19 per cent of the season, up from 12 per cent the year before.
Commercial operators made up 12.5 per cent of the hut users. Grieve said DOC would closely monitored the commercial use of the hut during the trial. Under the conditions of the concessions, commercial operators could not occupy more than half of the beds in the hut and commercial groups were encouraged to be self-sufficient and camp out to avoid overcrowding.
Figures for Brewster Hut weren’t as comprehensive as the hut did not have a warden. But the number of loads of sewage taken from the hut had increased from one load a season before 2015, to three loads a season in the past two years.
“For the past two years we have had repeated verbal reports from visitors to Brewster Hut that it was overfull,” Grieve said.
Hut wardens will be present at Siberia Hut and periodically at Brewster Hut for the duration of the booking trial.
“We expect people to plan and prepare well for their trip”, Mr Tubbs says. “However, safety is our number one priority and if you are caught out it’s important to know that you can seek shelter at these huts.”
The cost of staying at the huts has not changed – it is still $15 per adult per night ($7.50 for those aged between 5 and 17 years). Online bookings can be made from November 13.
Annual hut pass holders can use their hut pass number to create a booking for the Siberia Hut by contacting any DOC booking office. Hut Passes are not valid for Brewster Hut.
Bookings will be available for one season on a trial basis. After the trial, a decision will be made regarding future use of a booking system for each hut.