A family has apologised to the Department of Conservation after being heavily criticised for over-booking a hut in the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park, saying the incident was the result of miscommunication.

A volunteer Department of Conservation hut warden was appalled to find only half the beds being used at the 26-bunk Waitawheta Hut despite the computer system showing a full house.

Hedley Timbs told Wilderness magazine that when he arrived at the hut on a Saturday night in late January he was expecting well over two dozen people.

Read more: Trampers invented 12 kids to book out hut


Instead he found just three families totalling 14 people by the end of the day.

The story attracted strong comment on social media this week, with many calling for the families involved to be banned from using similar huts later on.

However, DoC commercial channel manager Ross Shearer said after the story was published one of the families who had booked the hut had contacted the department and apologised, stating there had been a miscommunication between families which resulted in fewer people staying in the hut than booked.

"DoC is still working through the details ... and there may have been some genuine booking confusion involved," he said.

"The family accepts they should have told DoC that their plans had changed and that's the over-riding lesson from this incident.

"Our systems are based on openness and honesty and this situation is very rare.

"DoC wants to ensure everyone has equal access to enjoy our huts and if we believe people are deliberately abusing the booking system we will take action."