Newsletter #5 December 2023

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Kia ora koutou

Welcome to our December 2023 newsletter of the Greater Wellington Backcountry Network Inc.

As with the last newsletter in July, theres been a bit going on.

We had out AGM in September 2023. A new committee was elected, the members of the committee now are – Andre Pilcher (Secretary), Owen Cox (Treasurer), Brett Gilles (Vice Chair), Derrick Field (Chair), John Duggan, Emma Gregg and David Piggot (Committee). The committee has also approved Jill Dalton to fill a vacant committee position.,

The 2023/24 track maintenance programme has progressed though the winter, with still some major projects to undertake during this summer. Hut maintenance is also underway.

New changes to Incorporated Societies were mostly provided for in our Rules during the review of the group. Re-registration is required and this was completed recently.

Membership; requests to join the GWBN has slowed down, with occasional on line applications usually  occurring when our work is publicised. We now have 173 registered members including 14 tramping and hunting clubs. A total of 120 members have indicated they are interested in volunteering for hut and/or track upkeep.

Chainsaws; five more GWBN members were successful in achieving NZQA Unit Standards for Basic chain saw use in a course funded by Eastern & Central Community Trust. Anyone experienced in using chainsaws and willing to help with track maintenance should contact myself.

With funding from local DOC Masterton and also other charitable groups, we go into the summer well placed to be able to undertake a significant maintenance program that will benefit forest park users. DOC Wairarapa rangers continue to give great support with materials, tools etc.

With the Christmas break coming, I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable time in our forest parks

Nga mihi nui

Derrick Field – Chair GWBN


Alpha hut; Our Give a Little page and other direct donations to the GWBN resulted in $2000 being raised. In addition to the donations raised, the GWBN will fund the work needed on this hut.

We have also been successful again in obtaining a funding grant from Trust House Foundation. This grant will allow the recutting of tracks in the Upper Ruamahanga valley – including Dundas to Cattle Ridge to Roaring Stag and to Putara.

Also contributing to our track maintenance, has been the Wellington Te Araroa Trust, enabling a team to continue clearing the Main Range and Te Matawai-Waiopehu sections of the TA Trail. The Backcountry Trust also supported funding this work.


Dorset Ridge hut; A bad leak in the roof needed to be repaired urgently, so Alistair Barr and Derrick Field went in to investigate and fix the problem. So far, it appears the leak has been fixed. The firewood supply was topped up, and grass and flax growth near the hut cleared.

Nichols hut

A team from the Kapiti NZDA spent a weekend recently installing a much needed additional water tank at the hut. They also did an repaint of inside and also the exterior of the hut. Plus a general tidy up. Nichols is something of a bottle neck in bad weather, being located beofre the climb over Mt Crawford. While at the hut, quite a few TA walkers arrived, wet through. The team noticed that some did not have adaquate clothing for the Tararua conditions, and may be under estimating the risk tramping the area in the wrong conditions.

Alpha Hut; this will be the major hut maintenance project this year. Long overdue, this important and well used hut on the Southern Crossing will get a facelift early in 2024. Costings are being done, following an inspection by John Duggan and Nic Blair. A repaint of the interior and exterior with be done, along with repairs to the hut. Water leakage will be fixed and a section of ceiling replaced. The clearlite over the deck will also be replaced. After the inspection, John Duggan tramped back into Alpha to repair a damaged water tap.


2023/24 Track Programme; track clearing has been ongoing, with emphasis on getting tracks used on the Te Araroa trail maintained before TA walker numbers get too high.

The overall track programme that the GWBN has management agreements with DOC for is 380 kilometres. By the end of the 2023/24 year we anticipate that nearly all of these tracks will have been cleared at least once in the last three years.

Since the track programme began in 2022, we have completed the clearing 300 kms of tramping track in the Tararua and Aorangi forest parks.

Note: The above distance includes tracks that are now on repeat maintenance (accessible “Walk” standard tracks) A total of 183 days have been spent clearing tracks, and volunteer hours total 2450. The scrub bar has been operating for 570 hours.

We are now at a stage where some tracks are due from recutting. Mainly accessible “Walk” tracks including Mikimiki, Puffer, Tauherenikau Gorge, Putara. At Otaki Forks, Volunteers Franz Hubmann and Paul McCredie have been clearing the Waiotauru valley track to the Waiotauru hut.

Clearing of vegetation on the Gentle Annie track at Holdsworth has commenced, with DOC Wairarapa rangers.

Marchant Ridge; Nic Blair and John Duggan cut tree falls and other vegetation off the Marchant Ridge, from Alpha hut to Dobsons. This was done over one and half days, the last day from Omega to Kaitoke was an epic, taking 11 hours with a chainsaw.

In the Aorangi Forest Park, Mike Mulder and his brother have been maintaining the Aorangi Crossing, from Mangatoeote hut to Pararaki.

Widening of the Puffer and Dobsons tracks in areas of gorse has commenced, with the aim of reducing repeated cutting. A number of tree falls on the track were also removed. The Maingatainoka valley track and Mikimiki have been recut, and tree fall removed. A number of tree falls were removed from the Cone saddle track also.

Widening and removing woody vegeation from over hanging the easy day use Walk  tracks has been undertaken to remove future tree fall and make future trimming of vegetation much quicker to maintin. Rather thnan having to use chainsaws to remove vegetation that has been allowed to regrow.

Te Araroa Trail; the GWBN has taken on improving the tracks used by the Te Araroa trail, through the Forest Park. To date we have maintained approximately 50 kilometres of these tracks, from Mangaone road near Waikanae to Poads road at Ohau. Some maintenance is still required at Nichols hut. Latest efforts have been the Main Range and Dora track sections. A team of 5 flew into Dracophyllum hut and worked from Kelleher through to Te Matawai and on to Richards Knob. This effort was able to happen with funding provided by the Wellington Te Araroa Trust and also the Backcountry Trust.

Recently, the Waiopehu track section was completed. This was partly funded by an additional grant from the Te Araroa Trust, and also GWBN funding.

The sub alpine sections of the TA tracks had the heaviest cutting, with 1 kilometre of track often taking more than 8 or 9 hours solid cutting with a scrub bar and chainsaw. In this photo, Alistair Barr is removing cut scrub and tussock off the Richards Knob track.

2023/24 programme; tracks still to be maintained this year. The Mangahao Valley and hopefully South Ohau-Yeats-Dowling Falls will be cleared. This will likely take 5 or 6 days.

With the funding grant from Trust House Foundation, the tracks in the Upper Ruamahanga will be recut. (Dundas to Cattle Ridge, Cattle Ridge to Roaring Stag, and Roaring Stag to the Mangatainoka valley). This may involve two teams over 5 days or more.

Tree fall in the Mitre Flats and Barton track area will be removed.

We were unsuccessful in obtaining funding to cut the Renata to Aston and Maymorn to Kapakapanui tracks, but will be bidding on the Backcountry Trust fund later in the summer to try and get this route maintained this year.

The access to the Mt Reeves track from Woodside has been an ongoing issue. DOC and the Outdoor Access Commission have been negotiating access to the track for some time, but it appears the landowner can legally block the access across his land. An alternative route is from Walls Whare to Mt Reeves, which may be worth investigating.

Want to support the GWBN volunteers maintain your huts and tracks in the Greater Wellington forest parks? Helping us to keep our huts and tracks maintained enables the enjoyment by the many that recreate in our forest parks. Click here to donate

NMSC Trip Planning App

The Mountain Safety Council (MSC) continue to update trip information on  the Plan My Walk  app with 8 Tararua tracks now available for trip planning.

The Greater Wellington Backcountry Network is supported by


This newsletter is published by the Greater Wellington Backcountry Network Inc. To contact us, email is

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