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Kiwi Flat Hut

Kiwi Flat Hut

(Kiwi Flat Hut: Photo Andrew Buglass 2015)

Maintenance Status

Kiwi Flat Hut is designated as fully maintain. A recently created access track that provides access up the North bank of Waitaha River is also fully maintained. Up until a few years back the access track went up the South bank, but this was abandoned by DOC after a longstanding roadend access dispute with P.D. Farms.

Location

Waitaha catchment. Grid Ref: E1416718/ N5221664. Map BW17. 265m altitude. Kiwi Flat Hut is located on a low terrace on the TR of Whirling Water, 400m upstream from its confluence with the Waitaha River and adjacent to the large river flat from which it derives its name. The bush surrounding the Flat is mature podocarp, rata, hardwood forest and the Hut is a pleasant and relatively easy overnighter, or first stop for those heading further up the Waitaha valley. A swingbridge at the bottom end of Kiwi Flat provides views into the top entrance of the spectacular Morgan Gorge. Westpower have submitted a proposal for a "run of the river" hydro scheme that will significantly, negatively and permanently alter the character of the Gorge. DOC, disappointingly, have approved the project in principle and are now considering the final decision following a submission process in which outdoor and environmental interest groups came out strongly against the project. Kayakers in particular strongly oppose the project, and the Morgan is considered one of the most challenging gorge runs (grade 5) in the country.

Westpower want to build a weir and intake across the mouth of the Gorge and divert the bulk of the River, taking up to 25 cumecs down a tunnel to a powerhouse further downriver, and reducing water volume through the Gorge to a mere 3.5 cumecs. Materials would be choppered in or brought up the tunnel, and a road put in up the North bank to the site of the powerhouse. The construction process is projected to take 3-4 years. If the project goes ahead the Gorge will totally lose its character. The power and beauty of its striking azure blue waters derived from the snow and glacial melt in the head of the valley, will be reduced to stream-like proportions. The water-sculpted rock walls overhung with southern rata will cease to resound to the spectacular roar of white water, and Kayaking this stretch of fantastic grade 5 rapid will no longer be possible. Westpower have consistently overestimated demand for power on the Coast and projections indicate that with the Amethyst and Waitaha schemes operating, up to 55% of the power generated will be on-sold to the national grid. To cap things off, an independent report to the Minister of Conservation concludes that, "it is unlikely that the proposed scheme would be financially viable in the reasonably foreseeable future."

Access

In May 2012 DOC contractors completed a new track up the North bank of the Waitaha to Kiwi Flat. A fair portion is river travel and very straightforward. The main tracked portion around the Morgan Gorge is well marked, but the terrain is uneven and boggy in many places. It would have made more sense to put a 3-wire across the bottom of the Morgan Gorge, cross back to the South bank, and use the original track around the Gorge, rather than creating this new bit.

From the roadend carpark a narrow strip of unoccupied Crown Land between the farm fence and the River is followed, followed by a piece of covenanted land around point 202m. The River has cut in against the bluffs here and it's necessary to climb the steep banks onto the terrace and travel through a thick kie kie/ supplejack understory to skirt the bluff. There is a rough cruise-taped line through this section. If the River is low it may be possible to do a couple of fords to avoid it. Once past point 202m the route reconnects with, and follows the farm road to McGregor Creek. It seems a shame that this whole section has to be walked when it could be driven in five minutes, but this is part of the access deal with the farmer. After MacGregor Creek it is easy river travel for around an hour, with one short tracked section around a low rock bluff. The main track enters the bush about half a kilometre from the start of the Morgan Gorge and climbs in a series of steep steps around the Gorge. The terrain is rough and not well drained, with rocks, tree roots and boggy patches underfoot. The trail drops down at the top end of the Gorge and crosses the swingbridge at the bottom end of Kiwi Flat. Travel from here is up the river flat on the TL to Whirling Water, which is generally easy to ford at normal flows. Continue up the grassy flat on the TR of Whirling Water for around 200m. A large orange triangle at the edge of a low terrace marks the start of a short section of track to the Hut. Whirling Water may not be crossable after heavy rain. Allow around four hours currently from the roadend to Kiwi Flat.

Type

Kiwi Flat Hut is a standard NZFS SF70 six-bunk design with open fire built in the 1960's. It was lined in the early 1980's and had one of the cupboards at the entrance removed to create more space. A water tank and woodshed were installed shortly after the DOC transition in 1987.

Condition

Kiwi Flat Hut was repainted and had some general maintenance and chimney repairs done in 2003. It is in reasonable condition currently, although the paintwork is starting to get tatty. The bush around the Hut is regenerating and some of the second growth kamahi and quintinia is getting quite big. This keeps the hut site damp and shady. The chimney is rusting around a patch that was put there in earlier repairs a metre and a half above ground level. The insect mesh on both windows is holed. Kiwi's piles are of the old untreated, probably silver pine variety. 13 of the 18 are rotted out at ground level, a few quite badly. The hut floor is sound and level still, which is pretty amazing given the state of the piles. The joists and bearers all good apart from the the bearer on the chimney side of the hut, which is wet, but not dozy, along half its length. The lead sealing along the ridging is still intact (hasn't been pecked by kea). There is reportedly a small leak on the southern skylight. DOC recently replaced the toilet, with one with a door that didn't close properly. There isn't much dry firewood on site and people often don't replace what they use. Driftwood can usually be scavenged from the riverbed, but it requires getting off your backside and taking an empty pack for a walk. The helicopter pad next to the Hut is also becoming marginal and needs the scrub around it cleared.

Upper Valley Tracks and Other Routes

The Permolat Group began keeping the tracks and routes above Kiwi flat open in 2007, some time after DOC ceased doing this. The last big recut took place in September/ October 2015. I did a bit more light trimming and marking in August 2106. The track up to Moonbeam Hut from Kiwi Flat starts at the Kiwi Flat Hut door and climbs steeply up onto a bush terrace that separates the Waitaha from Whirling Water. There a bit of large windthrow on the terrace section that needs skirting. After the Headlong Spur turnoff the track drops off the terrace and sidles across the bush faces above the Waitaha Gorge. After about 20 minutes the track veers sharply uphill and climbs to 510 metres to get around two large active slips, before dropping back to the original trackline and continuing upvalley. There are a number of ups and downs before it starts descending to the River just upstream of Mark Creek.

From here it is around an hour's boulderhopping, with a couple of small bush detours to Moonbeam Hut. Moonbeam Torrent, a short distance downriver from the Hut, is large and swift and usually impassable after heavy rain. The track up to the Hut starts on the riverbed 10 minutes upstream from the Torrent, and climbs a steep 60 vertical metres onto the terrace where the Hut is located. Allow 4-5 hours to get from Kiwi Flat to Moonbeam Hut.

The track to Scamper Torrent Hut starts 75m up the TR of Labyrinth Creek at the bottom of Kiwi Flat. The track hasn't received any official maintenance for some years and is reliant now on volunteer input to keep it open. It is currently in pretty good order although the bottom section is getting a bit rough, and needs re-marking. The open sections leading over and down into Scamper torrent basin have been cruise-taped.

The track climbs steeply out of Labyrinth Creek initially, then flattens and ascends a sloping bush terrace towards the toe of the hill. It connects with a narrow steep spur and follows this to the tussock line. The spur connects with the broad ridge bounding the TL of Scamper Torrent basin at point 1125m. There's a pole just above a tarn and another quite a distance further down. Below this a cut trail leads down through a band of alpine to the floor of the basin. It is a 10 minute walk from here upriver to the Hut, which is located on the terrace on the TL of the Torrent. Allow 2.5-3 hours for the journey from Kiwi Flat Hut to Scamper Torrent Hut.

The track up Headlong Spur starts 1/2 an hour up the main valley track from Kiwi Flat and provides access to the Smyth Range. The track was recut and marked to around 1160m by myself and John Roper-Lindsay in June and October of 2016. The section through the alpine scrub to 1160m is roughly cut and could do with a bit more trimming. There is low scrub above this to around 1400m, and a couple of small patches in this band would benefit from having a trail cut through them.

The Headlong Spur route forms part of a three-day alpine circuit encompassing Kiwi Flat, the Smyth Range, and Scamper Torrent. There is one steep section on the Smyth Range bordering the Kea Glacier which is generally snow-free from late summer, but would require ice axes at other times if conditions were icy. Most of the Range is relatively easy travel however, and there are plenty of good campsites. Scamper Torrent is accessed by dropping in a WNW direction down some sloping benches under Mt. Durward into the small basin on the lee side point 1397m. Follow the small stream from the basin to where it drops over a waterfall and continue sidling West across the tussock faces onto the broad spur bounding the TR of the main branch of Scamper Torrent. This spur has a small creek bisecting it. The high ground on either side of the creek can be followed through patchy scrub down into the main basin. The Hut is visible most of the way down from Durward in fine conditions.

County Stream Hut can be accessed by means of a high traverse of Mts. Neville and Barry. There is a bit of permanent snow on these two peaks, and it is advisable to carry an iceaxe at most times of the year. There is a steep, exposed section of Clearview Spur between points 1945m and 1690m that requires downclimbing. The route from Clearview Spur into County Stream is down the faces on the TL of Canary Creek. Drop into Canary Creek for the last couple of hundred metres to avoid a band of alpine scrub just above the valley floor. A fit party may be able to get from Kiwi to County in a day over the tops, but it makes more sense to camp out and break the journey in two.

Smyth Hut in the Wanganui can be accessed by dropping off the Smyth Range at point 1830m. The upper Smyth River is good travel down to just below the Bradshaw Creek confluence. From here the going gets bouldery and rough. While this route could theoretically be done in a long day from Kiwi Hut by a fit party, it would be more sensible to allow two. The swingbridge across the Wanganui just above the Smyth confluence was washed away in a flash flood in 2013.

Repairs

Kiwi Flat Hut needs repiling sometime soon. Some sealing and patching work needs to be carried out externally on the chimney. The inner fireplace surrounds have rusted out also, and need replacing. The louvre handle on the end window is broken and needs replacing, along with the insect mesh on both windows. The leak in the skylight needs to be located and sealed. It is possible that the skylight needs replacing. The regenerating forest around the Hut needs a serious trim-back, and the chopper pad cleared back. The Hut could do with a repaint. The toilet door needs reworking to fit the toilet and braced in the right direction. The windthrow on the section of terrace as far as the Headlong Spur turnoff needs chainsawing. The Headlong Spur track between 900m and 1000m could benefit from a bit more cutting, From 550m down to the track end itโ€™s well cruise-taped, but could do with more permolatting. There's enough permolat and nails under a stump at the junction to do this.

Provisions on Site

One camp oven minus lid, two billies, a pot, a broom, two aluminium buckets, a plastic wash basin, two axes, a slasher, a hammer, a reasonable amount of flat-head nails and staples, two pruning saws. Under the hut there are three lengths of plastic downpipe, a length of spouting, and a roll of No. 8 wire.