A new backcountry 12-bunk hut has opened for public use in the southern Kaimāī Range between Matamata and Tauranga.
The planning and construction of the hut has been a multi-year project led by the Kaimāī Charitable Ridgeway Trust, an affiliation of tramping, walking, deerstalkers groups and individuals who have been co-ordinating volunteer hut and track maintenance work throughout the Kaimāī since 2015.
Te Whare Okioki, the name of the hut, can be translated as "The Resting Place", a name bestowed on the hut by Ngāti Hinerangi, according to a written statement from the trust.
The iwi provided support throughout the project, including with a pre-construction site blessing, a carved hut sign, and a blessing for the completed hut.
Te Whare Okioki is constructed to the Department of Conservation serviced hut standards. A unique feature of the construction is that it has been built using aerated concrete blocks – as a result, it can never be burnt down. There is a large covered deck, a wood burner, and solar-powered lighting.
Kaimāī Charitable Ridgeway Trust chairman Roger Montgomerie said the hut added to the tramping experiences on offer in the area - particularly as more people came to live in the area.
"It's a great opportunity, especially when you've got half of the New Zealand population living north of Taupō," Montgomerie said.
"We're pretty spoilt here - you can live anywhere in Tauranga and be at the Kaimāī Range in 30 minutes."
He hoped that families, school groups and Duke of Edinburgh participants would make the most of the facility.
He said the construction of the hut began in 2018 and more than 13,000 volunteer hours had been poured into clearing the walking paths in the area.
"We've been blown away," he said.
The Kaimāī Charitable Ridgeway Trust now hoped to build two more huts along the route.
The hut facilities also include a meat safe and dog kennels.
A new helicopter pad is behind the hut that has been used through the construction process and can be used to support future Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.
There will be ample camping space around the hut too.
The hut is accessed via a three to six-hour tramp from seven road ends in the southern Kaimai. These tramping times assume reasonable fitness and carrying an overnight pack.
It is on the Kaimāī North-South Track – a five to seven-day tramping route that traverses 84km along the length of the Kaimāī Range between the Kaimāī Summit on SH29 (Matamata to Tauranga) and SH2 at the Karangahake Gorge.