Powell hut will be demolished, with a new hut built in in its place. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Tararua Forest Park’s most popular hut will be demolished and off-limits for trampers for six months over summer.
Powell Hut will be closed to all users from the beginning of November until April 30, 2019, while a replacement is built in its place.
The existing hut was not weathertight, and the overall structure has weakened as a result, the Department of Conservation [DoC] said.
The original hut was built with solid panels in 2000, rather than conventional timber framing, with lining and cladding.
The hut’s temporary closure will affect hikers looking to traverse the popular Powell-Jumbo Circuit.
The next nearest huts are Jumbo Hut and Mid Waiohine Hut, both a three-hour trek from the Powell Hut site.
Capacity of the new hut will be the same, 32 bunks, but it will be more user-friendly with four separate sleeping areas to increase privacy.
The new hut is designed to cover a similar footprint, but an extended deck will allow users to enjoy the view in comfort.
DoC spokesman Jim Flack said the new structure would be the fourth version of Powell Hut.
The first was built in 1939 by the Hutt Valley Tramping Club.
“People used to haul their skis up to 1200 metres and go skiing from Powell hut.
“It doesn’t snow as much up there as it used to.”
The original hut burned down in the 1970s, with a replacement built shortly after.
The second Powell Hut burned down in 1999, when a tramper lit a fire and left the hut with door open, causing embers to be blown throughout the structure.
At 1200m above the treeline, the site is exposed and a challenging place to work.
The elements had been factored into estimates of construction times.
Much of the hut will be built off-site and flown in, piece-by-piece, by helicopter.
DoC Wairarapa operations manager Kathy Houkamau said there will be signs and notices at all access points to the park, and information available to ensure people were not caught out by the closure.
“It is the most popular hut in the park with over 3000 bed nights per year, and we are aware the closure will be inconvenient for users.”
Houkamau said DoC asked people last year what they wanted in a new hut on the site and received more than 800 suggestions.
“We are taking a cautious approach and advising people that the hut will be closed for six months, but we hope to have it open ahead of schedule and will be providing regular updates.”