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December 2021 Issue
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No decision yet on new Routeburn hut

Lake Howden Hut was damaged in 2020 and there’s no news yet on a replacement, despite pressure building on track accommodation

DOC is yet to decide whether to build another hut on the Routeburn Track after Lake Howden Hut was damaged in a storm in February 2020 and removed last December.

The hut has significantly reduced the track’s capacity. 

DOC southern South Island operations director Aaron Fleming said there were no immediate plans for a replacement, but “that is not to say DOC isn’t considering the options long-term”.

“It’s not about quick fixes and replacing like for like,” Fleming said. “If a new hut is deemed the way to go – not necessarily just Lake Howden – we need to ensure that any forward planning takes into account the aspirations of local iwi, changing visitor use patterns, climate change resilience, the provisions of the Fiordland National Park Management Plan and bang for buck. This isn’t the kind of decision you want to rush.”

If a new hut was built on the Routeburn, it wouldn’t go in the same location, he said.

“Geological hazard assessment shows it is too dangerous for a new hut to be rebuilt on the same site.”

A day shelter will be built near Lake Howden in the second quarter of 2022. 

Without Lake Howden Hut, the Routeburn’s capacity has been reduced by at least 18 people a night. People tramping from the Queenstown end either stay at the 20-bunk Routeburn Flats Hut or the 48-bunk Routeburn Falls Hut. For the second night of the tramp there is now only the 50-bunk Lake Mackenzie Hut, creating a bottleneck for the second (or first) night of the tramp.