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A round-up of news from the wild. 

The Department of Conservation has announced that from June 1, all hut book comments will need to be submitted to DOC for approval before publication in any hut book. The clampdown comes in the wake of DOC’s controversial policy that demands media apply for permits before any reporting and photography on conservation land.*

“We are tired of people making silly remarks in hut books,” a spokesperson representing a DOC spokesperson said.

“We thought we’d stamped this out years ago by printing rows and columns with specific instructions so people wouldn’t just draw dicks or use the books as score pads for card games, but the tramping public just can’t be trusted.”

Anyone wishing to leave a comment in a hut book will now be required to email an ‘Application to comment’ form to DOC upon arrival at every hut. In event that a hut does not have internet service, trampers will be required to drop off the form in-person at a DOC office at the end of their tramp. If approved, the comments – including intended routes from a hut and any current weather conditions noted – will be added to the hut book within 28 days of the tramp’s conclusion.  

Meet the true ‘hut-baggers’

While ‘hut-bagging’ has become an increasingly popular competition among keen trampers, a movement is putting a slightly different twist on the phrase. 

According to the group, huts should be avoided at all cost, with members encouraged to ‘bag-out’ huts for being dirty, cold, dark and often located in the middle of the bush.  

The mission statement of the new movement is simple: visit as few huts as possible in any given calendar year. Considering the popularity of tramping as a New Zealand pastime, this is no easy task. Top of the leader board at the time of writing was Raglan triple-amputee Geoff Armstrong, who had only visited four huts in the last year. Armstrong said he has room for much improvement. 

“It would have been far fewer to be honest, but of course my mate Jack thought it would be a really original idea to go have his 40th birthday party in a hut, as if that’s never been done before,” said Armstrong. “One of the other huts was a mistake – I took a wrong turn when stumbling home from the pub – and the third was just a moment of weakness.”

As for whether there will ever be a Kiwi who has never been to a hut, only time will tell, but it’s something every true hut-bagger aspires to.

Fox Glacier gets mountain biking approval

A Christchurch mountain biking business called SpokesPassion has won final regulatory approval to build bike trails down the rocky remnants of Fox Glacier, as the world-famous glacier continues to evaporate like an ice cube on hot concrete. From January 2024, bike riders will be able to race down the rocky valley that was once inconveniently covered by the useless 13km glacier.

“We see this as a major tourism drawcard going forward,” said a spokesperson for SpokesPassion. “We would have liked this to happen sooner, but the ice-covered glacier was just far too slippery for bike riding. It would have been terrible for our insurance premiums. 

“Luckily for everyone, it should be gone before long.”

Scientists estimate it could take as little as 24 months for craft beer breweries and a hipster barber to open up at the bottom of the former glacier to service the influx of mountain bikers. 

Rivers in firing line as petition hits parliament 

The health of New Zealand’s rivers has once again been called into question with the recent tabling of a petition in parliament. The petition calls for the temperature of all popular swimming rivers to be raised by at least two degrees, in line with global warming standards. 

“For too many years Kiwis have been forced to endure freezing rivers,” the petition states, “even if it’s a lovely sunny day. It’s really not fair. And while global warming marches on, our rivers are being left behind. It’s time we did something about it.” 

The petition calls for a feasibility study to investigate the practicalities of diverting water from hot springs into the country’s coldest rivers. The minister responsible for thermal regulation has been contacted for comment.

‘Super huts’ set to serve bush users

A new proposal to demolish large numbers of huts throughout North Island forest parks and replace them with a small number of ‘super huts’ has been described as “ludicrous” by backcountry users. 

Government figures show that 20 per cent of huts are used by 95 per cent of park users, with the vast majority of huts failing to pay their way. The leaked report – discovered at the bottom of a drain – reveals that up to $500 could be saved every year by demolishing around 450 seldom-used huts. 

“The only benefit derived by retaining these huts is the occasional life they save, and the amenity they provide to a small group of stakeholders,” said a government official who has never held a stake. “Examination of hut books and long-drop contents indicate some huts are used only once or twice a month, usually by people named Steve or Brett who eat porridge with raisins for breakfast.”

The report calls for one large hut to be built in the centre of each forest park. “This will ensure hut fees can be easily collected, money which can then be better spent demolishing further huts.” 

Group ratty over calls to cull rodents

Supporters of ‘heritage rats’ are pushing for the animals to be given special protection within New Zealand’s national parks, due to their heritage values. The group, Aotearoa Rats and Stoats Environmental Sustainability (ARSE) say we should follow the Australian example of protecting feral species within high-value conservation areas. 

“Rats and stoats are scapegoats. So are goats, come to think of it,” said ARSE spokesperson Petro Chancer. “There is no evidence that rats or stoats have caused the death or extinction of any birds anywhere. The birds probably died of boredom from not having any real predators to play hide and seek with.”

Chancer says he very much admires Australia’s stance, where feral horses are afforded greater legislative protection than native animals within its most fragile alpine national park. 

“Just like Australia’s brumbies, these rats are part of our heritage.” 

ARSE claims there is growing evidence that many of the rats roaming the Ruahines may be descendants from rats that arrived in Maui’s waka when he fished up the North Island. “Some of these rats also fought in the war effort,” Chancer added. 

Nominees called for outdoor awards

The prestigious Wilderness Outdoor Awards winners are set to be announced on July 22, celebrating the best of our backcountry. Aoraki/Mt Cook is heavily backed to continue its dominance in the Highest Mountain category, while Doug from Methven is a hot contender in the Most Consecutive Days Wearing the Same Polypropylene Skivvy category. 

Nominees are being sought for the following categories:

Highest number of Tararua tramps ruined by terrible weather.
Long drop containing the most blowflies.
Most Instagramable bog.
Longest time spent on your knees in a hut trying to light a fire with wet wood in a potbelly stove.
Most unnecessary plunge into a freezing tarn.
Longest time tramping pack left in the hallway before being unpacked after returning from a tramp.
Most inventive swear words uttered after being stabbed in the leg by a Spaniard.

* Actually true