As dawn broke over Mt Pirongia on Sunday morning, a small group of local kaumatua, Department of Conservation staff, and members of the Pirongia Te Aroara o Kahu Restoration Society at Pahautea Hut saw the sun dramatically break through the high cloud.
The previous day's heavy rain cleared just in time to helicopter the group to the newly completed Pahautea Hut so that it could be blessed and available for public use.
In front of the new Pahautea hut
Back left to right: Manirewa King-Howell, Kaumatua Raiha Gray, Kaumatua Meto Hopa
Front left to right: Brigitte Meier, Conservation Partnerships Manager, Waikato; Melissa King-Howell Conservation Services Manager from DOC Waikato; June Bright and Clare St. Pierre from Pirongia Te Aroara o Kahu Restoration Society
The 20-bed hut has been built on the site of the 32 year old 6-bed hut, which has been relocated slightly, and will be closed to the public.
When the blessing party arrived, the tiny hut was packed with visitors, despite the wet weekend weather, and the five-hour uphill walk, which reinforced to DOC managers, Brigitte Meier and Melissa King-Howell, the need for the upgraded hut.
Siituated just below the summit of the extinct volcano, Pahutea Hut has been a destination for people visiting the mountain since its construction in 1980, and is the first hut met by trampers walking Te Araroa –the Long Walkway when travelling North to South.
Overcrowding at the old hut was a frequent occurrence, especially during weekends and holiday periods. To help resolve overcrowding at the hut, camp pads and a campers shelter were provided.
"The Department of Conservation is committed to engaging more people in recreation," said Conservation Partnerships Manager, Brigitte Meier.
"The Pahautea Hut’s proximity to urban centres gives city-dwellers the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy an experience of staying overnight in a mountain hut with spectacular sunset views.
"The new hut will provide an opportunity for a range of visitors, as the current hut with six bunks is too small for use by schools, youth and family groups.
"It will provide a safe, overnight, comfortable human space, where visitors can gain a greater enjoyment and appreciation of conservation and New Zealand biodiversity including the 700 year old Pahautea forest."
Cold, windy and wet conditions can be expected at any time of year, so DOC advises visitors to be prepared for changes in weather, be suitably dressed and always carry a spare change of clothing. The hut is well insulated, but there is currently no heater.
Hut fees apply.