An "iconic" century-old school building in Putara Valley, west of Eketahuna, will come alive year-round after being reopened as a backpackers and base camp.

Putara Base Camp at the foot of the Tararua range was opened last week by third generation Putara farmer Quinn Tua-Davidson and his partner Michelle Kucyniak who have been living together in the valley for about eight years with their two young daughters.

When Ms Kucyniak arrived in New Zealand from Quebec she "often joked around that [she] would bring lots of tourists to the valley" -- never thinking that she would actually get the chance.

"We often use the cattle yards nearby and whenever we would go past the school we would think it was just a shame to see it sitting there doing nothing."


The couple found out that Tawa College in Wellington own the building and have used the site as a field station for its students for two weeks of each year, but it is unused for the remainder of the year.

Tawa College principal Murray Lucas said he was approached by the Putara couple last year, who asked to set the building up as a backpackers and base camp.

"It's totally a win-win situation," Mr Lucas said.

"They've been fantastic to us. As neighbours to the property they've gone from looking out for the place to looking after it now fulltime."

Mr Tua-Davidson and Ms Kucyniak have been sprucing up the old building for the past six months inside and out to prepare it for use by families, backpackers and trampers.

"We started off on the inside of the building," Ms Kucyniak said.

"After several days of prep work it got given a good lick of paint and with the help of good friends, the building has now a new breakfast bar connecting the kitchen to the classroom making it a lot more warm and inviting," she said. "We're trying to keep our costs as low as possible so it's just been one step at a time, and a lot of bargains and Trade Me finds."

The couple are charging $20 per person a night for backpackers accommodation, and $10 for a tent site on the property.

In the vicinity of Putara Base Camp is the Mangatainoka River, popular DoC bush tracks and the couple's 240ha sheep farm.