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Kakapo Hut

Kakapo Hut

(Kakapo Hut: Photo Andrew Fenemor 2015)

Maintenance Status

DOC planned ceasing official maintenance of Kakapo Hut in 2004. Due to local protests they back-tracked and agreed to carry out two-yearly maintenance, but reneged on this commitment. In 2012 Jason Campbell, a DOC worker and Permolat member, lobbied his employer to support a volunteer project. DOC Westport and Motueka supplied the materials, and DOC Motueka provided Jason's labour. Karamea helicopters flew in most of the work crew and materials free of charge. The working bee took place in January 2013. The access tracks into the Kakapo valley have not been officially maintained for many years, are very overgrown, and in some cases indiscernible. Visits to the Hut are mostly fly-in ones, with on-foot visits few and far between.

Location

Karamea Catchment. Grid Ref: E1541722/ N5424106 (BQ23 417 241). Topo Map BQ23. Altitude 360m. Kakapo Hut is located midway up the TL of the Kakapo River, which is a major tributary of the Karamea River. The Hut was averaging around one visit per year during the 1990's and early 00's, probably due to the lack of extant tracks. There was brief surge in 2009 when six parties visited. Since the 2013 visits have been limited to DOC predator control, and the odd tramping group.

Access

Access to the Kakapo valley from the Little Wanganui catchment is marked in some places but very overgrown and marginally followable in others. The most difficult bits are around Lawrence Saddle and the Kakapo approaches to Bellbird Stream saddle where the trail has disappeared completely in places. The increasing frequency of major storms and cyclones have created additional significant areas of windthrow. A recent party found much of the route from Drain Creek to Lawrence Saddle a tangle of cyclone damage and turned back. However if you make it to the Saddle and remain undeterred continue along the ridge in a SE direction for a short distance, then drop into the TL Branch of Bellbird Stream. Exit the stream on the TR around the 300m contour and sidle North into the TR branch of the Stream. Follow this up where it veers South at E1538502 and continue East along a strip of mature forest separating two scrubby areas and up a gully to the saddle at E1539435.

Permolat markers lead from the saddle along to a bench to where they peter out. Continue sidling East around the 500m contour to the next ridge. Drop down this a short distance to where a second lot of permolat markers lead East across a old earthquake slip (cairned in places) to a gut. Cross the gut and drop 60-80 vertical metres in an easterly direction to pick up the remnants of a cut route at the 420m contour (around E1540239/ N5425951 (BQ23 402 260)). This drops diagonally to the valley floor where a Predator control line marked with pink triangles can be followed for the last 2km to the Hut. Allow 9+ hours for the trip from Belltown Hut to Kakapo Hut.

The other route to Kakapo Hut is from the Wangapeka valley via Kakapo Saddle. An old track up to the Saddle starts behind the Herbert Creek sign and was last trimmed in 2015. The track ends at the Saddle from where there are two descent options. The first is via the small creek directly below the Saddle and involves skirting a waterfall and some bluffs on the way down. The second option is to head NW along a bench above the bluffs which descends diagonally towards the valley floor and ends at the big slip marked on the map. The slip is being recolonised by dense beech saplings, and although the River below looks tricky, it's easier travel at low flows than pushing through the regrowth.

The route down the upper Kakapo valley is mostly boulderhopping initially, with more terrace travel further down. DOC Predator control lines with pink markers run through the bush on both sides of the River upstream of the Hut, and can be followed to it. The trail on the TL is straightforward except for one or two places where the river has taken it out. Allow 7+ hours to Kakapo from either Taipo Hut, Helicopter Flat, or the mid-Karamea huts.

There is a helipad near the Hut.

Type

Kakapo Hut is an unlined four-bunker with an open fire and a single four-pane window, built in 1958 by the Nelson NZFS. This design was characteristic of the early Nelson Huts and predates the standard NZFS S81 four-bunk design that eventually became the high-country standard. Only a small number of this type of hut were built, the only other remaining one being Johnson Hut in the Mokihinui catchment. Kakapo's materials were brought in by helicopter, one of the earliest uses of this type of machine by the NZFS (the first was Luna Hut). The Hut's door has carved in it the names and dates of cullers and trampers back as far as 1962.

Condition

Kakapo Hut is in good condition thanks to Jason and his crew in 2013, and should remain so for some time to come. The team repainted the exterior, replaced the rusted chimney guttering, patched the chimney's rust holes, and replaced and painted the rotten window framing. The old springs from the bunk were replaced with ply and a new new hearth surround was constructed. An iron capping was placed over the Hut entrance, and the mantelpiece fixed. Wall studs, rotting floorboard sections, a pile and a bearer were replaced. A new toilet hole was dug, the toilet shifted, and a toilet sign put on a post on the NW corner of the Hut. The historic features such as names and old carved graffiti have left untouched. Some of the vegetation around the Hut and helipad was cleared. Another group did more clearing of the chopper pad in 2015. There has been a bit of rat sign reported in the Hut, so those going in may want to consider doing a bit of rodent control.

Routes

The original tracks in the Kakapo valley have not been maintained since the NZFS days and have vanished in a lot of places. The DOC predator lines where they exist provide a means of travel on the valley floor. There is mention Greys Hutbook of an old track up the TL of the Karamea from the Kakapo confluence to opposite Greys Hut (the book goes back to 1987). No recent information is on hand concerning this route.

Repairs needed

There shouldn't be too many currently. The roof will probably need replacing in the medium term. Next person in could take some rat poison/ traps.

Provisions on site

A broom, a dust pan and shovel, a washing bowl, and maybe an axe.