Crossing the Ōrongorongo River.
Image: Laura Honey | DOC

Introduction

We’re working with the Ōrongorongo Club Inc to phase in public access to private huts in the Ōrongorongo Valley when the current licences expire.

The private huts in the Ōrongorongo Valley were built and licenced prior to the area becoming public conservation land. Some of the private hut licences are beginning to expire and because they are on public conservation land, they cannot be renewed.

One of the principles of public conservation land is open access to the public.

Many families and extended whānau have enjoyed unique backcountry experiences in these huts over several generations. Making them publicly accessible will open the experience to more people.

Hut owners will retain private ownership until their licence expires. All licences expire by 31 December 2050 so the phasing-in process will take some time to implement.

Expression of interest proposals to obtain a licence for the management of a hut (or huts) will be opened to the public once a hut licence has expired. Proposals will be assessed against selection criteria, which will include a requirement that the huts will be publicly bookable.

About the huts and licences

The private huts in the Ōrongorongo Valley were built before the valley became public conservation land. Some of the huts date back to the 1920s and there are over 50 huts left in the valley.

The huts add unique historical, cultural and social character to the valley and are examples of great kiwi ingenuity.

They were legally established at the time they were built, when the land was under the stewardship of the Wellington City Council and when anyone could apply for a licence.

When the Ōrongorongo Valley became public conservation land, DOC issued licences to hut owners to enable continued use of the huts. The licences are not transferable and will expire when the last licence holder passes away or on 31 December 2050.

Why are the huts becoming public

The privately owned huts are on public conservation land. One of the principles of public conservation land is open access to the public and privately-owned structures sit at odds with this.

Providing public access to the huts opens the opportunity for members of the public to access, enjoy and experience the unique heritage in the valley.

Wellington Conservation Management Strategy

Under current Conservation General Policy and the Wellington Conservation Management Strategy (WCMS) 2019, we can’t have private structures on public conservation land.

Under the old WCMS private huts in the Ōrongorongo Valley would have been removed upon expiry of the licence. When the WCMS was reviewed, it acknowledged these private huts are a part of the heritage of the valley and many people have a special connection to them.

The new WCMS (2019) allows the huts to be retained under a public use model.

This WCMS became operative in January 2019 after an extensive public consultation process. DOC worked with the Ōrongorongo Club Inc throughout the WCMS review (2016–2018) to collaborate on a process to phase-in the private huts to public use. 

Keeping a private hut

Licence holders can privately use their hut until the licence expires.

The licence expires when the last licence holder passes away or on 31 December 2050, whichever comes first.

All licences will expire by 31 December 2050.

Phasing in public access

DOC 'Basic Hut Standards' will be used as baseline standards when assessing whether a hut is suitable for public access. There will be some flexibility to ensure the unique heritage and character of the huts is preserved, while ensuring huts will not pose a health and safety risk to the users.

Full criteria are still being developed, but will include the following general principles.

  • The style and character of the huts must remain essentially unmodified.
  • Huts will need to be available for members of the public to book via an organisation that provides open membership.
  • Huts need to meet basic hut standards – primarily that the hut is safe and sanitary and will not pose a health and safety risk to the users.
  • If the huts are deemed unsafe and unsuitable for public use, they may be removed subject to any heritage considerations.

Preserving their unique character

The WCMS (2019) recognises the historic, cultural and social values of the huts.

Conditions to phase-in public use require the style and character of all buildings, floor areas and/or building footprints to remain essentially unmodified.

Future management of the huts

Huts will be managed and maintained by an organisation who obtain a licence to do so. DOC will manage licences and licence obligations for the huts through standard licensing agreements.

Huts will be made available for members of the public to book via an organisation who manage the huts and is open to the public to join.

Who can manage a hut

The public will be able to submit an expression of interest proposal to obtain a licence for the management of a hut (or huts) once a hut licence expires.

Any organisation who can demonstrate that they fulfil criteria and will provide public membership to book the huts is eligible to submit a proposal.

They must be able to demonstrate they have appropriate resources to bring the hut(s) up to standard and provide for ongoing maintenance and management.

DOC will take into account wishes expressed by family or caretakers with connections to the hut(s), when considering proposals.

There will be conditions requiring licence holders to submit booking information to DOC.

Fees

Organisations who manage the huts when they become public will be able to receive fees from those who use them, to help with maintenance.

DOC will require a percentage of revenue received, which will be outlined in the licence granted to the organisation.

Contact

If you have any questions or want to know more about this work email orongorongohuts@doc.govt.nz.

This is a shared project mailbox that is monitored regularly and one of the project team will get back to you.

Project documents

Ōrongorongo private hut phase-in to public use – brochure (PDF, 1,482K) January 2022

Ōrongorongo private hut phase-in to public use – process diagram (PDF, 136K) January 2022

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