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Townsend Hut

Townsend Hut

(Townsend Hut: Photo Andrew Buglass 2012)

Maintenance Status

Townsend Hut is a maintain-by-community project by Graham Jackson of Hokitika. He acquired some funding from the new High Country Consortium to undertake some minor repairs on it. The access track will also be maintained by Graham.


Taramakau River. Grid Ref: E1499998/ N5263536. Map BU21. Altitude 1140m. Townsend Hut is located in an old fault scarp near the scrubline on the TL of the Taramakau valley. There are open tussock patches and small tarns close by, and great views down the Taramakau from the lip of the scarp. Townsend Hut was built by the NZFS in the 1960's and maintained by APNP up until 2007, when DOC Hokitika took over the role. APNP carried out basic maintenance prior to this, supplimented by one lot of volunteer input in 1995. Townsend Hut gets up to 20 visits per year, mostly overnighters, but there are also fairly regular visits by those doing more demanding tops crossings from the Poulter and Koropuku valleys. Chamois are regularly encountered on the tops above the Hut, and Kiwi have been seen or heard in the vicinity.


The most direct approach to Townsend Hut is up Taramakau valley from Aitkens Corner on State Highway 73. Fords of the Otira, and Taramakau are usually necessary and make it a weather-dependent option. One could get all the way up the TL without fording the Taramakau if it were necessary, however the Otehake, a sizeable River, would still need to be crossed. From the car park at Aickens Corner follow the markers along the paddock fenceline, then through a gate to the Otira River. Cross the Otira riverbed on a NE diagonal towards the end point of bush at the Taramakau Junction. The River is braided here and fording is usually easy at normal flows. A flood track down the TR of the Otira from the Deception Footbridge adds a good hour to the trip, and was last cut in 2012. The emergency shelter still marked on the Topo map at the Junction has been washed away some time back.

Follow the marker poles from the Otira junction along the bush fringes on the TL of the Taramakau. Alternately, head directly NE across the river flats and pick up an old 4WD track further out in the riverbed. The latter is a tad faster, although both routes merge further upriver. The Lake Kaurapataka route branches off the trail 100m before Pfeifer Creek and is marked by poles. The trail continues up the TL of the Taramakau until roughly opposite Taverners Creek. Ford diagonally here and pick up the trail on the TR just after Jacksons Creek. Continue up the TR of the Taramakau past the Kiwi Hut turnoff to Michael Creek, then cross to the TL of the Taramakau. The route to Townsend Hut starts at the unnamed creek 400m upriver from Michael Creek. The creek has changed course at the bottom and now runs through the bush downriver from the original creekbed. Graham is in the process of tidying the track through this section to the point where rejoins the creek further up. The odd large orange triangle on dead spars mark the route from the 450m contour to where a cut track exits the creek around 500m. It climbs steeply up the bush faces onto a narrow ridge, and follows this up a short distance onto a bench the montane zone. From here it ascends in a series of steps through sub-alpine forest to the scarp on which the Hut is located. The last stretch along the scarp is through open tussock patches with small tarns. The tracked sections from the Taramakau valley are in excellent condition and it takes 4-5 hours for the trip up from the roadend currently.

it is unclear whether the APNP policy prohibiting commercial helicopter flights applies to Townsend Hut. A clearing has been cleared for landings 20m in front of the Hut, but this may just be for maintenance purposes.


Townsend Hut is a standard NZFS S81, 4-bunk design, built in 1962. It was lined and had a small donated roof-fed water tank installed by volunteers in 1995. Water can also be obtained from the small tarns a short distance down the scarp, and the tarn at the far end is deep enough to have a dip in. The end louvre window was replaced by a double-glazed one in 2007. There is no toilet.


Townsend Hut is dry, sound, and in very good condition currently. It has a sunny north-facing aspect and is raised well above the ground, making it less prone to snow seepage around the floor plates in winter. The piles appear to be original and untreated, and are not concreted in. A couple are getting a bit dozy, and the middle pile on the eastern side of the Hut has started to lean a bit. The floor at the South end of the Hut is noticeably concave, but still firm underfoot. The bearers and joists appear to be in excellent condition. The front and roof of the Hut need repainting, as the paint is beginning to flake. The outside sill of the side window also need repainting. The wood paneling in the door has gaps in it, which may let a bit of water in during strong wind and rain. Graham got the Hut sealed and door painted, but ran out of summertime to paint the rest of the exterior.


The most popular tops crossing to Townsend is from the Minchin valley via Minchin Pass. From Minchin Biv it is a straightforward amble up to Minchin Pass, then up the the ridge on the southern side of Waterfall Creek basin. It is necessary to traverse points 1461m, 1526m, 1638m and 1731m and drop from point 1731m down towards point 1183m. Don't drop directly down to Townsend Hut, which visible from the Divide in fine conditions, as there is a band of alpine scrub on the face just above it. From point 1183m follow the lip of the fault scarp down to the Hut. Allow 4-5 hours in good conditions for the crossing from Minchin Biv.

A crossing from the Poulter valley is possible over the unnamed col between Mt. Koeti and point 1686m. From Poulter Biv follow the upper Poulter River to its head and climb directly to the col. This is a simple scree climb in late summer and autumn, but during the colder months the snow near the top of the col gets icy and ice axes are necessary. Drop from the col into the basin under the North face of Mt. Koeti and sidle at roughly the 1300m contour to where it is possible to drop directly down to point 1183m. From here follow the lip of the scarp down to the Hut. Allow 4-5 hours for the crossing in good conditions.

A fairly straightforward tops traverse between Townsend Hut and Koropuku Hut is described in Frank King's tramping blog: Head up the fault scarp to point 1183m and continue up the NW spur of point 1731m to around the 1350m contour. Sidle around the North basin of Mt. Koeti at roughly this level. Continue around the North spur of point 1686m into the next basin and up to the col between points 1681m and 1750m. Drop from here into the head of the Koropuku and follow down the TR to arounf the 1000m contour. Follow the Stream from here. The exit up to the Hut is not always obvious, as the cairns are often washed away. The route goes up a small overflow stream on the TR that runs into a quiet watercourse overhung by low trees. You know you've gone too far when the Koropuku begins to drop into the gorge. Allow 4-5 hours in good conditions for the crossing from Townsend. An iceaxe may be needed on occasions in winter and spring.


The exterior repaint will need to wait until next summer. All the paint and rollers etc. are stored there ready to go. Replacement of some of the piles and floor leveling may be necessary further down the track. Townsend Hut would benefit from having a toilet.

Provisions On Site

Three billies, one billy lid, a small frypan, two bench seats, two small tables, an old first-aid kit, a shovel, a small folding pruning saw, a broom, five spare glass louvre panes and one perspex one, a wall-mounted map of APNP, and five sheets of wall ply that are wedged between the bunk and the East wall. Under the Hut there is some spare iron cladding, some timber odds and sodds (including a bit of tongue and groove), some old sheets of clearlight, a makeshift wooden ladder, and a coil of No. 8 wire. Graham's paint and paint gear.