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Students help DOC design hut

The newly-built Kōhanga Atawhai – Manson Nicholls Hut is popular with families. Photo: Cameron Jones

An unlikely team of junior architects and planners have helped DOC rebuild a popular West Coast hut.

Formerly the Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut, the newly-completed 20-bunk Kōhanga Atawhai Manson Nicholls Hut is now open, with a few special touches from the local Maruia School.

Meaning ‘conservation nest’ Kōhanga Atawhai sits on the shore of Lake Daniell in Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve and is an easy 2-3hr walk from the car park, making it a popular destination for school trips and trampers of all ages.

Originally built in 1976 to commemorate three trampers killed there in a 1974 landslide, the hut has since succumbed to severe rotting damage.

DOC works officer Cameron Jones said Maruia School pupils gave feedback on numerous hut proposals over 10 years, and their accessibility and sustainability ideas have been incorporated into the final build. These include wider doorways, flush entryways, lower cooking benches and varying bunk heights. An efficient composting toilet, insulation and north-facing windows have created a more environmentally-friendly hut.

Chalkboard walls and large living space were also included to make the hut suitable for school trips.

The new build has a separate hut warden quarters, with campsites and a cooking shelter.

Jones said the hut is designed to help introduce new trampers to the backcountry.

“The build is all about the first tramp experience,” he said. “This was my kids’ first tramp, and now they want more.”

The hut will be added to the booking system in summer.