The Department of Conservation, local iwi, Federated Mountain Clubs and Back Country Trust are in discussions to explore opportunities for a potential rebuild of the popular Lake Dive Hut in Egmont National Park.
The 16-bunk Lake Dive Hut, on the slopes of Taranaki Maunga, burnt down in 2020 in a suspicious fire. A man alleged to have started the fire is now before the courts.
The local Department of Conservation (DoC) team is keen to see the hut replaced and staff are looking at possible options to achieve this, senior ranger Dave Rogers says.
"We recognise it leaves a fairly big gap in the backcountry hut network on that side of the mountain. Due to its stunning location and views of Taranaki Maunga, Lake Dive hut was a popular overnight destination. But like any organisation, DoC has a limited amount of funding, so we're exploring rebuild options with potential partners."
He says DoC staff have been in discussion with Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) representatives, as the organisation's members want to see the hut replaced.
Megan Dimozantos is an executive member for Federated Mountain Clubs, and says the trust is open to the possibility of a joint project, a community approach where skilled volunteers provide time to assist with the rebuild, and/or the possibility of seeking philanthropic funding, or materials for the project.
"There are a number of groups committed to trying to bring the rebuild of Lake Dive hut to fruition and although these discussions are promising, they are by no means a guarantee the rebuild will go ahead."
A hut rebuild in alpine Taranaki Maunga environment would cost anywhere between $450,000 and $800,000, depending on design and engineering requirements.
Dave Rogers says DoC staff are working to put together some timelines on when they can provide more surety around the capital funding outcomes on Lake Dive Hut, and this information will be made public in due course. Putting an exact timeframe on a possible rebuild is difficult.
"Given the nature of the environment where the hut is situated, and the requirements for consultation, engineering and architecture, a hut rebuild will most certainly not occur for another couple of years. We acknowledge people's desire to see a new hut, and appreciate the public's understanding a realistic approach is required given the massive amount of work involved with building a new hut, especially in an alpine environment".
Megan says time frames need to be realistic.
"A hut rebuild is a huge undertaking. Finding funding, consulting relevant stakeholders, finding the right people to do the work, working in with poor weather, harsh conditions and helicopter access all add to the complexity, and that's before we take into account the current shortage of building materials. If a rebuild does go ahead, I wouldn't expect to see any new piles in the ground until the summer of 2022-23 at the very earliest. I agree it's frustrating a solution can't be more immediate. But for the time being, I feel comfortable that DoC is doing all it can to move things in the right direction."
Lake Dive Hut is located in an area of shared interest for both Taranaki and Ngāruahine iwi. In a joint statement, Te Kāhui o Taranaki Trust and Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust welcomed the opportunity to work with DoC to reconnect their uri with the mātauranga and relationships associated with the area.
"The integration of cultural narratives and employment opportunities in any design and construction works are also a central focus which provides for the developing relationship with the department as our Treaty partner."