Volunteer clubs and groups from around the country are thrilled to be receiving funding to look after the backcountry huts and tracks they hold dear. Earlier this month, the Outdoor Recreation Consortium allocated $81,400 from the Community Fund to help support 18 volunteer-led projects that will maintain and enhance New Zealand’s backcountry hut and track network.
The three organisations that make up the Consortium – Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC), Trail Fund NZ and the Deerstalkers Association – share a common goal to make the New Zealand backcountry more accessible for each group’s passion, and they’re making massive strides!
FMC President Peter Wilson says he continues to be impressed with the ongoing enthusiasm of volunteers to be actively involved in the backcountry.
"It leaves no doubt as to how much these place are valued,” says Peter. “People just keep putting their hands up to help, which demonstrates the volunteer forces’ goodwill and willingness to work alongside our friends at DOC in the backcountry."
The way many of these projects are being supported is testament to this commitment.
The majority of the FMC projects are receiving funding to support community group in the adoption and maintenance of backcountry huts – a funding model which is becoming the standard fare for the Outdoor Recreation Consortium.
Thanks to this type of funding, huts such as Erceg Hut (Ruataniwha Conservation Park), Mistake Flat Hut (Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Hut), Kiwi Hut (Arthur’s Pass), Mid-Waiohine Hut (Tararua Forest Park) and Goat Creek Hut (West Coast) will receive some love from the outdoor community this coming summer.
Peter says there are two especially exciting projects this round; the adoption and saving of Carlyle Hut on the South Side of the Poplars range, and the rebuilding of Waiotauru Hut in the Tararua range.
“Both of these huts provide unique outdoor recreation opportunities so it’s great to support their maintenance,” says Peter. “Waiotauru Hut is being rebuilt by the Akatarawa Recreational Access Committee, 4WD enthusiasts and custodians of the popular Orange Hut. The present hut is an eye-sore and a well-thought-out rebuild will create new and unique opportunities for overnight experiences in the Tararuas, particularly for 4WDers and mountain bikers.”
Trail Fund NZ, which supports the development and maintenance of sustainable mountain bike-accessible trails in New Zealand, was also proud to support more great projects in Nelson, taupo and North Canterbury this round.
“It’s great to see the North Canterbury Cycling Club’s continued commitment to the revamp of the Wharfedale Track,” says Trail Fund NZ president Russell Garlick. “The number of users has already increased significantly and the club believes that, with further funding and volunteer effort, it will become an iconic destination ride for those visiting and riding in the area.”
New Zealand Deerstalkers Association president Bill O’Leary says it’s incredible how much time and effort Kiwis will put into the places they care about.
“The resounding message we are receiving is that these places are valued,” said O’Leary. “A wide variety of community members want these backcountry huts to be there forever, and people we had never heard of proved to be committed enough to this cause to contribute hours of their own time. And, not only are they are enjoying the job, they’re coming back for more.”
Part of Trail Fund’s Wharfedale Track funding went towards hiring a helicopter to chopper in the right digger – small enough to effectively improve and re-route trail sections without being destructive, and small enough not to exceed the weight of the helicopter’s max lift