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Damage, disrespect could put huts in jeopardy

Damage, disrespect could put huts in jeopardy

Locals could lose access to the welcome refuge of three backcountry huts within the next 10 years if users don't up their game.

Freeloaders and a mix of poor hut etiquette and vandalism, including a rotting animal carcass left in one, are putting the existence of Mathias Hut, Reischek Hut and Evans Hut in the upper Rakaia River area at risk.

New Zealand Deerstalkers Association's (NZDA's) Rakaia branch secretary Perry Costen said the local branch built and operated the huts with a concession from the Department of Conservation.

NZDA asks for a $5 donation from hut users to help with maintenance costs - but a lot of people were using the huts without paying.

"Being in the middle of nowhere, it's very hard to police. We're lucky to get $100 for each hut in year. Compared to their use, it's peanuts," Costen said.

There are donation boxes outside each of the huts and posters inside explaining the donation policy, along with the Rakaia NZDA bank details for payment.

A recent spate of vandalism at Mathias Hut has bumped up the maintenance costs, leaving the volunteers from the local association to find the money for repairs.

Costen said some NZDA members had arrived at Mathias Hut to hunt only to be greeted by a rotting animal carcass inside the hut and blood all over the decking.

They spent their time at the hut scrubbing all the walls and floors instead of hunting.

On another occasion, the wooden bunk ladders were ripped off and used as firewood. As a result people had to jump to reach to top bunks which damaged the bunks.

A local company donated steel ladders to solve that problem, Costen said.

On yet another occasion, instead of reporting a problem with the chimney visitors ripped off the chimney cap which resulted in rain damage.

"This sheer disregard for the huts is very disappointing and completely unacceptable."

While the Rakaia NZDA would hate for this to happen, Costen said the huts could close within 10 years if the abuse of the huts continued.

By Sharon Davis