A South Island man squatting in a forgotten workers' hut in Canterbury with his horse and dog is being given the boot by the council after overstaying his welcome.

But it appears he, or his pet companions, are not planning on going anywhere after changing the locks of the council-owned hut.

The hut, called Greta Hut, lies on the eastern shores of Lake Ohau in the Ruataniwha Conservation Park.

Until recently the ownership of the hut, used as a hikers' retreat, was uncertain and disputed.

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The interior of the hut is peppered with graffiti and, instead of using a guest book to sign in, campers usually just write on the walls.

Mackenzie Council mayor Graham Smith said the man living in the hut had been trespassed by the council and had until January 7 to leave the property.

The man had been living there for several months but the council had only been made aware of his extended tenancy two weeks ago when they learned the hut was owned by the council, and not the Department of Conservation.

"He feels he owns the property and is making alterations on the property but he is only squatting there.

"We tried to talk to him but that didn't work so then we served a trespass notice."

The structure has six bunks and was built as a workers' hut during the 1930s.

Twizel Community Board member Pat Shuker said she had been contacted by several visitors of the hut who had found it padlocked and guarded by a dog.

"Two or three people have contacted me to say they are scared of it.

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"I have no objections to people living there, provided they allow other people to live there as well."

The man living at the hut, however, had a different story.

Possum hunter Richard Lawlor said he'd been living in the house on and off for months but claimed the matter was misconstrued by people who only wanted to use the hut as a drinking location over Christmas.

He said he was a frequent visitor of the hut and returned annually to hunt possums.

But this year he returned to find the hut was in a "disgusting state" so he moved in to fix it.

There were burns in the floor, bullet holes in the roof, rotten mice in the carpet and broken bunk beds and windows.

Greta Hut lies on the eastern shores of Lake Ohau in the Ruantaniwha Conservation Park in Canterbury. Photo / Supplied
Greta Hut lies on the eastern shores of Lake Ohau in the Ruantaniwha Conservation Park in Canterbury. Photo / Supplied

"So I decided in my spare time that I would tidy it back up and have never planned on staying there full time and still don't as I know this hut is the community's and open to all visitors, which I have had many stay over the last few months as I have been fixing her back up to a good condition."

He said he had been planning on having Christmas Day at the hut with friends but that had been canned.

He acknowledged the hut had been locked but only for a few weeks.

Since taking the lock off two weeks ago the hut was broken into while he was away. Power tools, a tent and bedding had been taken.

He was not homeless, he only wanted to restore the hut so it could be used by the Twizel community.

"I have never turned anyone away and have been more than welcome to share with anyone, but a little group from Twizel don't want to share this beautiful place, they only want it to themselves."

During his stay he had completed numerous repair jobs on the hut's foundation, the roof and windows, he said.

Lawlor says he has done numerous repairs to the hut. He built a rock and concrete wall around the base to stop the wind getting in the hut. Photo / Richard Lawlor
Lawlor says he has done numerous repairs to the hut. He built a rock and concrete wall around the base to stop the wind getting in the hut. Photo / Richard Lawlor

He planned on coming to pick up his trailer and horse in the new year and would move on soon enough.

On Friday, the council announced that registrations of interest were being sought from interested parties to manage and maintain the hut.

"The council seeks to gift the hut to a well-founded organisation who is prepared to maintain and make the hut available for public use and access."

Smith, however, said the registration of interest was an error and the matter would first need to be discussed by the council in the new year.

"There is a bigger discussion that council will need to have. What can we do and is it compliant?

"We will be calling for a full report."