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Pigeon Post, April 2017

Our letter of the month correspondent wins a Gerber Gator 154CM knife worth $99.99

Letter of the month

DOC’s unsung heroes

At a time when DOC often comes under fire for its many alleged shortcomings, an unheralded success story has to be the composting toilets installed at Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut at Lake Daniell in Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve.

Let’s give a shout out for the hardworking, and unpaid, DOC earthworms slaving away in the dark confinement at the back of the toilet block of the (French-made) Ecodomeo dry composting toilet, one of the first of its kind in New Zealand.

These diligent workers are transforming faecal matter and toilet paper into compost that only needs removing every five to 15 years. Voilà – no fuss, no mess, no smell!

So cheers to DOC, viva la France, and let’s have more of these brilliant toilets installed at huts around New Zealand.

– Katie Cloughley, Nelson

Katie receives a Gerber Gator 154CM knife worth $99.99 from Readers, send your letter to

Track benching pioneers

Geoff Phillips jogged my memory on the benching of Sunrise Track (Pigeon Post, February 2017). It was indeed a pick, shovel and wheelbarrow job carried out, in the main, by three forest service deer cullers over the winter months of 1983, ’84 and ’85.

Historically, most culling crews were ‘let go’ over winter, with only the ‘headman’ kept on for continuity.

There should be a plaque somewhere on this track to honour the late ‘Blue’ Wilkinson (headman) Peter Dandy and Shaun Cameron (shooters) who cut, benched and gravelled this trail with very basic tools.

Rangers Vic Brosnan, Brian Stevenson and I kept an eye on progress and the instructions were simple: no grade steeper than one-in-seven, no steps, and keep to the sunny north face as much as possible. They did a great job.

Historically, the track to Buttercup Hollow and Armstrong Saddle went from the old culler’s base (near where Triplex Hut is now), up beside the true right of Triplex Creek then directly up the ‘staircase’ to the main ridge. It was a bit of a grunt.

Buttercup Hollow was the obvious site for a new hut to replace the derelict Shuteye Shack halfway up the ridge. In April 1983 the materials were helicoptered up and Sunrise Hut was built.

– Barrie Atkins, former NZFS senior ranger

What’s in a name

I noticed in the story ‘Island in the lake’ a name ascribed to Mt Earnslaw I have never seen before, despite having lived here for 11 years.

I understand the name Pikitakatahi was ascribed to the mountain before Europeans arrived. I generally accept the principle that geographic names change from time to time, to reflect historic events or famous people. I am less clear on the principle of reverting commonly used names, to an earlier historic form.

I find I have caused offence to older trampers by referring to Mt Egmont as Mt Taranaki, even though that is the name used on modern maps. Older maps use Mt Egmont. There are probably going to be many more of these name changes as the current thinking is that we must value the old pre-European names, or must we? Should London be renamed to the name Anglo-Saxons used for that part of the river, before the Romans established Londinium perhaps, or closer to home, should we be replacing Wellington with Te Whanganui-a-Tara?

I was brought up with names like Bombay, Rhodesia, Tanganyika, Ceylon and Burma, but those name have now all gone. I respect ancient cultures, and their history is important, but I think too much name changing is confusing and counterproductive in New Zealand, or should I say Aotearoa?

– Brandon Holman

Typically, though not always, we spell place names as they are printed in the Topo50 series of maps. – AH

Hut design contributed to norovirus outbreak

The outbreak of norovirus in Nelson Lakes National Park at Christmas was in many ways a disaster waiting to happen.

Signs have now appeared in all local DOC huts encouraging people to wash their hands after going to the toilet or preparing food. Perhaps there should be permanent signs inside the toilets.

I think all of us were raised to wash our hands and we do it almost automatically, if a tap is handy. And therein lies the problem. In some DOC huts there is often no tap convenient to the toilets. Location seems to be a matter of expediency rather than logic.

I was at Sabine Hut when people arrived from West Sabine Hut saying they had to leave some of their group behind because they were too sick to travel. Some of the arrivals got sick during the night. Our group immediately took every precaution to reduce the possibility of picking up the bug.

But Sabine Hut is perfectly designed for the spread of bugs. The toilets are at one end of the building. The outdoor tap and basin for hand washing is at the back of the building. You have to open at least two doors and walk through the building to get to that basin. In getting there you walk straight past the kitchen sinks – which are much more convenient for washing hands than running a gauntlet of sandflies at the outside basin.

Our group used our elbows to open the doors or waited for others to open them. We headed off quickly next morning without picking up infection.

There is increasing pressure on many of our outdoors resources. At Blue Lake, the toilet is a short distance from the small hut. The camping area is beside the lake itself – about 200m from the toilet. I wonder how many walked the distance when nature called? The hut itself was overwhelmed with people during our visit, including many tourists who were not well-equipped or with inadequate food supplies – but that’s another story!

Graeme Ferrier, Nelson

Tramping with a purpose

Thanks for a great article (‘Tramping with a purpose’,  March 2017). I hope it inspires more people to do a bit more when out on their weekend tramps.

I would like to acknowledge all  the volunteers, not only  members of Palmerston North Tramping and Mountaineering Club (PNTMC), who help with the Oroua and Pohangina Valley trap lines. In particular, the NZDA Manawatu Branch for their continued support. There was no intention for me to miss anyone out in the article.

Egg producers Zeagolds supply eggs on a monthly basis  to a number of local trap lines via DOC’s Palmerston North office (not just to PNTMC) for which we are all very grateful.  Thanks Zeagolds.

– Janet Wilson, PNTMC applied tramper