Waiopehu Levin Tramping Club is taking positive steps to deal with the ongoing problem of mud holes on parts of the Waiopehu track, a popular and accessible tramping track into the Tararua Ranges.

The club has always been proactive when it came to the track and the hut. They rebuilt the hut and in recent years fixed the flooring, painted the outside of the hut, dealt with leaks and put underfloor insulation in and until 2002 were also actively repairing the track.

Though the track is 10.3kms long, it is a stretch of 250m that is the worst affected, because it is on flat land on the ridge, where wet conditions lead to water ponding and the many feet pounding along turn those spots into mud holes.

A mudhole made wider and wider as time passes and people try to avoid stepping into it.
A mudhole made wider and wider as time passes and people try to avoid stepping into it.

People then try to avoid the mud holes by going around them, creating an even bigger mud hole while also damaging native vegetation. Eventually there will be no more room to by-pass.

Advertisement

Mud holes can get deep enough to reach your knees should you step into one. Some mud holes are now 6m wide and 20m long.

The mudhole after rafts have been put in place.
The mudhole after rafts have been put in place.

Until 2002 the hut and much of the track was situated on private land. Now it is in the hands of the Department of Conservation and severe budget cuts over the last decade make it impossible for them to deal with track maintenance anywhere adequately.

DoC ownership of the land also means chainsaws can no longer be used and suitable timber to repair tracks the old fashioned way using a method called corduroy, is not close by anyway. Damaging native vegetation on conservation land is also not allowed.

The Waiopehu track is popular with local trampers and as part of the Te Araroa walkway attracts trampers from further afield as well as from overseas. It is a well-used facility and the Waiopehu Levin Tramping Club is determined to keep it safe and accessible for all.

The old way of fixing mudhole: this corduroy dates back to 1998.
The old way of fixing mudhole: this corduroy dates back to 1998.

The local club's tramping officer, Noel Bigwood, has come up with a plan for a permanent fix for mud holes. Though he thinks he has plenty of labour available, he needs help with funding tools, materials and the cost of flying materials in by helicopter.

He said the rafting system proposed has been used successfully in both the Tongariro National Park and around Mount Taranaki for a long time.

"It makes access easier and because the earth is no longer disturbed vegetation will regrow and the mud will disappear," he said. "The rafts are rugged and skid resistant."

The rafts are attached to posts set into the ground to keep them in place and are made of two 125mm-150mm by 2100mm quarter round posts with a deck of 50x50x400mm timbers spaced at 50mm intervals. They are set end to end across the mud holes.

Advertisement

A successful pilot project was recently run. Volunteers have installed 13 rafts.

"They were put together in Ōtaki from materials donated Mitchpine Ltd and Bush to Sea Outdoor Services. The latter also provided the workshop and the tools needed. Amalgamated Helicopter then flew the rafts out."

Bigwood now wants to raise awareness among the local community of this project and seek help achieving this.

"There are 10 sites that need to be done now."

He is looking for sponsorships to buy tools and materials and to pay for the helicopter flights. Money or heavily discounted prices for materials and tools is also welcome. The club has put $1500 aside for the project but the total cost is expected to be close to $16,000.

Members of the tramping club as well as members of LandSAR will provide the labour, but extra help is always welcome.

If you can help, contact Noel Bigwood: 027 645 3474 or email him: biggynz@gmail.com