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Casey Hut rises from the ashes

Casey Hut was rebuilt thanks to a donation from two trampers. Photo: DOC

A popular overnight opportunity in Arthur’s Pass National Park is available once again thanks to two generous donors, the Department of Conservation has said.

“The newly-built, 12-bunk Casey Hut offers trampers and mountain bikers a fantastic place to stay among the kiwi, kea and rare kakariki that live within the beech forests and alpine vegetation of Arthur’s Pass,” says DOC’s North Canterbury operations manager Kingsley Timpson.

Built in 1969, the original Casey Hut was the first of five Lockwood huts commissioned by the Arthur’s Pass National Park Board. The classic 16-bunk hut was part of the two-day Casey Saddle – Binser Saddle Route, as well as for mountain bikers accessing the hut from the Poulter River Track.

In October 2015, four trampers reached Casey Hut at the end of a long day’s tramp, only to be greeted by a smouldering pile of ashes. The hut had quietly burnt down over two days. Investigations were inconclusive but indicated the fire was likely the result of hot embers left in the ash bucket by the back porch.

There’s room for 12 in the new Casey Hut. Photo: DOC

“It was a tough blow for DOC to lose such a well-loved and accessible hut and we had some hard decisions to make about how best to address the loss,” said Timpson.

With the prohibitive cost of replacing this 50-year-old building with a new one, options included moving an existing hut to the Casey Hut site or not replacing the hut at all. However, the new Casey Hut was made possible by the generous donations of two people with a love for the mountains, their natural values and the opportunities they provide—Mr Robert Birks and Dr Sharon English.

“With options for a replacement being considered, Robert and Sharon came forward eager to give back to New Zealand’s hut network, which had provided them with so much enjoyment over the years, and to future generations,” said Timpson. “They worked closely with New Zealand Nature Fund, Federated Mountain Clubs and DOC to see this fantastic new hut built.

“DOC is extremely grateful to everyone involved. The successful rebuild of Casey Hut is an important step forward in DOC’s mahi to get people into New Zealand’s nature and is a great example of how multiple people and groups can work together to achieve a recreation resource that everyone can enjoy.”

If others wish to contribute to a conservation project or give back to New Zealand’s world-class network of huts, tracks and campsites, they should get in touch with their local DOC office.