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Kahunui Hut upgrades ensure future generations can explore East Coast backcountry

Upgrades made to six-bunk Kahunui Hut, a half-century-old historic gem on the East Coast, will help preserve some of the area’s heritage.

Located in the deepest part of the Waioeka Conservation Area on the banks of a stream, the remote 56-year-old hut has long been a popular spot for trampers and hunters. The hut is available for public use and reaching it involves a multi-day tramp with several river crossings.

Department of Conservation East Coast Biodiversity Ranger Jamie Quirk said the maintenance and repair work focused on retaining Kahunui’s historic features and allowing the hut to remain in perpetuity, rather than having to replace it.

“These upgrades will ensure Kahunui will be available to show future generations the beauty and simplicity of a bygone era.”

Items such as iron, timber and tools were dropped into the remote site by helicopter, along with supplies to keep four DOC rangers going for five days.

Quirk said the hut was built in 1965 by the New Zealand Forest Service for the purpose of deer control. Built to the standard floorplan of the time, it has a number of features that are unique today.

“It still has a built-in lockable food locker and a lobby area for storing firewood, raincoats and boots.

“Kahunui’s most special feature is an unusual three-tier bunk, with the middle tier hinged so it can angle out of the way and allow for seating or more space on the bottom bunk if the hut isn’t fully occupied. The top bunk is close to the ceiling and quite possibly would have been reserved for trainees.

“It has retained its original ‘safety orange’ colour and the number on the roof – 1878 – that was used to identify the hut from the air. Finally, it also still has its open fireplace, also known as ‘poor man’s television’.”

The forest and streams around Kahunui feature spectacular towering podocarp with whio, morepork and kâkâ all making themselves known to visitors. The track to the hut is a sidetrack off the main Koranga Tawa loop, a 2-3 day hike for advanced trampers.