Trampers have been blasted after 12 phantom children were booked into a North Island forest park hut to give three families exclusive use of the building.
A volunteer Department of Conservation hut warden is appalled at the selfishness of those who made the bogus booking after he discovered only half the beds being used at the 26-bunk Waitawheta Hut in the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park despite the computer system showing a full house.
Hedley Timbs told Wildnerness magazine that when he arrived at the hut on a Saturday night in late January he was expecting well over two dozen people. Instead he found just three families totalling 14 people by the end of the day.
When he checked their ticket he realised what had happened.
"They had booked in a dozen non-existent infants," Timbs told the magazine.
He said they began to explain away the large number of missing children.
"They tried to tell me they had friends coming but their car had broken down. Then later they offered me food and wine - it was really embarrassing how they tried to dig themselves out of the hole," he said .
Mr Timbs said the behaviour appalled him as it stopped others from being able to use the hut.
"There was a young mum with her boy and his mate. She told me on Saturday morning she'd brought the tent because she'd seen the hut was full that night. They were happy to camp but if it had been raining and horrible they'd have been stuck outside for no reason." .
The computerised booking system gave people a good idea of available accommodation and abusing it was putting off people from taking certain routes if they saw a hut was full.
The hut warden said selfishness had no place in the backcountry and forest park huts were available for everyone to use.
The Department of Conservation said it would be pursuing those behind the phantom children booking.
"DOC will be tracking down the details of the booking... and will take the issue up with those involved," said commercial manager Ross Shearer.
"We will also be alerting our Tauranga office to be aware of the adult to infant ratio of future bookings. Any person who doesn't have a valid booking can be penalised per our booking terms and conditions.
"This sort of behaviour is not what New Zealand is all about and it deprives other people from enjoying a stay in the hut."