Outdoor Hero of the Year
A high school excursion with friends to Cone Hut in Tararua Forest Park first sparked Geoff Spearpoint’s passion for backcountry huts and cemented his love for the New Zealand wilderness.
“It was an exhilarating, exciting experience,” he says.
He was soon involved in working bees with the Hutt Valley Tramping Club, maintaining huts and tracks in the Tararuas.
Now, 50 years on, and after writing several books on the outdoors and backcountry huts, he still dedicates his time to ensuring these facilities survive for future generations.
Spearpoint has been involved in restoring multiple huts in Westland and is deputy chair of the new Backcountry Trust (see story p10).
He first became aware that many backcountry huts were falling into disrepair while researching an edition of Moir’s Guide North.
“I kept coming across huts that clearly weren’t being maintained,” Spearpoint says. “That was a bit of a wake up call. I started thinking, ‘we actually have to go and do some of this stuff ourselves’.”
He started working with the hut restoration group Permolat and took on management of Tunnel Creek Hut on the Paringa River, near Haast, in 2014.
“It’s a classic six-bunk hut and one of my favourites. But I like every hut when I’m close by and it’s raining.”
He later restored Roaring Billy and Thomas River huts and will soon start work on County Stream Hut, at the head of the Waitaha River.
That DIY ethos has carried through to the Backcountry Trust, which distributes grants to hut restoration projects.
“Huts are an iconic part of the outdoor environment,” Spearpoint says. “If we are ever going to get more people into the outdoors you need to have these ways for people to learn the ropes.
“This award is for all of the volunteers out there that are doing stuff to maintain backcountry infrastructure and conservation work. I’m just one known figure, so I get targeted, but there are a lot of other people doing way more than I am.”