Michael Wilson from the South Canterbury New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association (NZDA) reports on the work.
Eade Memorial Hut, originally built in 1963, was long overdue for some TLC when the NZDA South Canterbury branch applied to the Outdoor Recreation Consortium for funding to improve it and the Red Stag Hut in the Godley Valley, above Lake Tekapo. There is 4WD vehicle access up the true left of the valley to a little beyond Red Stag, which was our last project. Eade lies on the true right, just a few kilometres further up, but a very tricky glacial river splits the valley, so access is not simple.
Following the usual delay for weather, in this case severe gale norwesterlies, our Thursday-to-Sunday trip was rescheduled for Sunday to Wednesday. Most of the volunteers were to head up to Red Stag on Saturday, to be in place for the helicopter arrival on Sunday morning. On Saturday afternoon Grant Shortus, Noel Welford and I drove up there, but while crossing the Macaulay River we got stuck in a bed of very soft gravel. We phoned our local contact for the project, Johnny Wheeler at Lilybank, who thankfully came to the rescue.
A short time before reaching Red Stag we met up with two more volunteers, Mike Bunkenberg and Michael Midgley. They had set out earlier in the afternoon but Michael's truck had sheared a ball-joint. They left repairs for a later date when they could return with parts, and continued with us.
Red Stag Hut - South Canterbury NZDA's last project
The NZDA working party
The northwesterly wind picked up strongly overnight but fortunately began to drop around 8:30 a.m, and soon after that we heard the heavy beat of the Tekapo Helicopters' Squirrel arriving with the toilet and building materials, and project leader Dave Keen. It ferried us across the valley to Eade Hut (just a two-minute hop), where we pitched tents along the sheltered scrub-edge and got straight to work.
Eade Hut was in poor shape cosmetically, clad in bare, rusty iron that first we scrubbed with wire brushes and then chemically treated before applying primer and then the first coat of paint. It was a bit of a race to get the paint off the brush, as the day was so warm and windy.
Meanwhile the rest of the team had begun digging the hole for the new toilet. We expected this to be a gruelling task, just as it had previously been at Red Stag because of all the rocks and boulders, and were prepared for a day or more of hard digging. But the ground yielded easily and within a couple of hours the hole was deep enough to accommodate the drum. Dave quickly assembled his pre-cut platform, then the toilet itself was manoeuvred into place on top and secured.
Rebuilding terrain around toilet site
Eade Hut and campsite
By evening we managed to complete the rest of the interior wiring on the hut and install the LED lights, which were much appreciated that night.
Despite the southerly change forecast, Monday was clear, warm and perfect for painting. We cut and painted new timber battens to go on the roof, removed the guttering and log fire for rustproofing, and painted the guttering before re-installation. Once the third coat of roof paint was dry, we fitted the new wooden battens to the wire bracing, then fixed the solar panel in place before running the last of the wiring.
In the mid-afternoon a young bull tahr was spotted making his way up the riverbed. The whole working party stopped to watch as he passed within 300 metres of the hut before continuing up the riverbed and out of sight. We all enjoyed the encounter and left him in peace, hoping he may one day grow into a worthy trophy.
With the exterior of the hut complete, we watched as Dave and Michael Midgley fitted the new sign. Michael's involvement seemed particularly appropriate, as his father had been a member of the original team who built the hut in 1963. He had also played a part in the original fit-out of the hut, when he and a friend carried the bunks across the glacial river.
Painting the windowframe
Applying the second coat to the roof
That evening we saw a couple of mature-looking bulls picking their way down the mountainside, so Mike Bunkenberg and Noel, keen to nab some meat for the freezer, went up to try and head them off. Noel eventually managed to secure his first mature bull just before dark.
Next day was more relaxed, as we'd finished most of the work and all that remained were any small unplanned jobs we could find. Grant made a fine job of colour-co-ordinating the benches inside the hut to match the external paint scheme. We painted the hut interior and generally tidied up as we enjoyed our last day. Soon enough the lazy heat of the afternoon dissipated into a surprisingly cold night, with temperatures dropping low enough to form a thin sheet of ice on the surface of a water bowl. Welcome to autumn!
Eade Hut before
Eade Hut after
The final morning dawned and after breakfast we broke camp, finished tidying and began our journey home, more than ready for a hot shower, but all the better for our time in the hills.
Thanks to all the volunteers who put in the time and effort. The three South Canterbury NZDA huts are now all up to date, and hopefully all set for another 10 years. We really appreciate the help and support of everyone that was involved, and we're sure all the users of our huts will too!
Reproduced with permission of the NZDA from Hunting & Wildlife, issue 194, Spring 2016.