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November 2020 Issue
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John Tait Hut is named after the man who organised the original hut’s construction in the 1940s. Photo: Shaun Barnett/Black Robin Photography

Huts are seldom named after people, but when they are they are well worth visiting. 

Huts are named for all sorts of reasons, most commonly after their location. Take Maropea Forks Hut, for instance, in Ruahine Forest Park, which is positioned at a prominent junction in the Maropea River. Sometimes a hut might be named for some distinctive feature of the surrounding area, such as Bushline Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park. Less frequently, they are named after people. Each of these huts honours someone strongly associated with the local area, and all are well worth visiting.

1. Leitch’s Hut, Whareorino Conservation Area

This 16-bunk hut was built in 1994 to encourage more people into the underrated Whareorino Conservation Area. It’s reached on a 3.5hr track from Leitch Road. The hut owes its name to pioneer Sam Leitch, who farmed the area in the early 1900s, living for 20 years in a whare he built himself.

2. Elder Hut, Tararua Forest Park

Norman Elder was something of a tramping polymath; he explored many of the North Island mountains, mapped them and wrote pioneering botanical reports, too. And this despite suffering a leg injury during the First World War from which he was not expected to be able to walk again. Born in Waikanae, Elder first explored the Tararua Ranges and was a member of the group that first traversed the Tararua Peaks. Later, he shifted to Hawke’s Bay and co-founded the Heretaunga Tramping Club. Elder Hut (four bunks) occupies a commanding position at 1110m on Renata Ridge, with broad views over the Waiotauru Valley. It can be reached on a side-trip from the Southern Crossing, or on the Renata Ridge Track.

3. John Tait Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson tramper John Tait was president of the Nelson Tramping Club during the late 1940s, and foresaw the need for shelter in the Travers Valley long before Nelson Lakes National Park was created. He organised many club work parties to lug materials up to the hut site, 16km from the head of Lake Rotoiti. The most awkward load, however, he saved for himself – the bulky metal cowling of the chimney. Completed in 1951, the hut was named after him – an honour he conceded only reluctantly. The existing hut, built in 1978 and heavily modified since, is the second on the site and is a popular place to spend the night while tramping the Travers-Sabine Circuit.

4. Ces Clark Hut, West Coast

It’s largely thanks to Forest Service rangers Ces Clark and Bruce Watson that a multi-day tramping track was first developed over the southern Paparoa Range. During the 1980s, Forest Service staff set about re-opening the historic Croesus Track, an old mining route between Barrytown and Blackball. Sadly, Clark died of a heart attack when preparing the foundation for a new hut at the bushline. Completed in 1986, the 16-bunk hut was appropriately named after him. It’s reached after a 4-5hr walk from the Smoke-ho car park near Blackball and now forms part of the Paparoa Track Great Walk.

5. Rod Donald Hut, Banks Peninsula

Much-respected Green Party co-leader Rod Donald died suddenly in 2005, aged just 48. Donald had grown up in Christchurch, where he began his political life doing recycling projects and explored Banks Peninsula before becoming an MP. In 2014–15 an existing crib was expanded into a larger tramping hut, and named after Donald. The nine-bunk hut offers good views over Little River and can be reached on the Te Ara Pātaka/Summit Walkway, but must be booked well in advance.