Home / Trips / Nelson-Tasman

Ministry of Works Historic Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Off the radar

Deep in the wild heart of northern Kahurangi is a subalpine tableland that rises to 870m. Mackay Downs features numerous granite tors which punctuate peat-filled valleys of tussock. Home to Powelliphanta snails and weka, this piece of paradise is truly off the radar. Tucked away up a narrow lane on the edge of this peneplain, almost out of sight, is a standard six-bunk hut – an island of candlelight in an ocean of waving red tussock.
Hard-to-find huts are a sort of holy grail for hut baggers, and a welcome refuge for those adventure seekers with competent off-track navigation skills.

This iron-clad SF70 has been preserved in nearly original condition as a monument to its troubled history. In 1970, the Ministry of Works erected this building on the site of their surveyors’ campsite in Juno Creek, which had been too exposed to wet weather. The surveying teams were investigating a road down the Saxon Ridge to Big River. This would link Collingwood with Karamea.

However, public opposition developed out of a desire to protect the popular Heaphy Track. A petition of 20,000 signatures made the road proposal a political hot potato and the government procrastinated ‘due to a lack of funding.’

Fifty years on, the old hut gets visited about four times a year by trampers who penetrate the labyrinth of tussock valleys and forested hills. These parties punch through waist-high scrub for half a day from the Heaphy Track, beginning at Otepo trig, or the bridge at Blue Shirt Creek. Other parties bush-bash from the lighthouse keeper’s hut at Kahurangi Point for 12 gruelling hours.

Regardless of the route, this hut is celebrated for its unique history and appreciated as a shelter from the elements.

Support Wilderness

Since 1991, Wilderness has had one simple goal: to help Kiwis ‘See more, do more, live more’ of New Zealand.

If you value our mission, please consider subscribing. As a loyal supporter, you’ll receive these benefits:

  • New Zealand’s best outdoor journalism We’ve won multiple awards for our journalism and magazine production.
  • NZ’s best trips. Browse more than 610 trips with downloadable maps and route notes.
  • Trustworthy gear reviews. Each month we review gear we’ve been bashing and thrashing for months so you can determine if its worth your money.
  • Member benefits. Our WildCard provides discounts at more than 20 partners throughout New Zealand.
  • Your support goes a long way. Your subscription will help us fund NZ’s best outdoor journalists and writers and ensure Wilderness will be there to inspire the next generation of outdoor Kiwis.

A subscription costs as little as $7.00/month for instant access to all articles, trips, gear reviews and gear guides.

View all our subscription options and join the club.

Already a subscriber? Login Now.

Total Ascent
Moderate / Difficult
Road end to Perry Saddle Hut, 5hr; To Gouland Downs Hut, 2hr; To Saxon Hut, 1.5hr; To Blue Shirt Creek, 1hr; To Ministry of Works Hut, 3hr
Perry Saddle Hut ($34, 28 bunks), Gouland Downs Hut ($34, eight bunks), Saxon Hut ($34, 16 bunks), Ministry of Works Historic Hut (free, six bunks)
From Aorere Valley Road end
BN22, BP23