Source: Department of Conservation
If you’ve walked the Milford Track you know how good it feels to reach Mintaro Hut. Tucked into the head of the Clinton Valley and nestled beneath Ōmanui Mackinnon Pass, you arrive at the hut on day two of your journey if tramping the famous Great Walk. After walking the length of the Clinton Valley and climbing modestly through silver beech forest and open grassy glades, you enter Mintaro Hut ready to put your feet up and contemplate the next day’s climb.
For 30 years, Mintaro Hut has been welcoming and sheltering trampers on their journey along the Milford Track. In 2009, a significant hazard of rockfall behind the hut was brought to our attention.
As we all know, New Zealand, particularly in areas along the alpine fault such as Fiordland, is prone to earthquake and seismic activity. The likelihood of an earthquake of a magnitude that could trigger a rockfall in the surroundings of the previous Mintaro Hut is estimated at 1% per year, with 15–20% probability of occurring in the next 15 years.
It is important to note that the risk level has not increased over the years but our understanding of the geology of the area has.
Further study from GNS Science – Te Pū Ao concluded that the risk was “unacceptable” which triggered an investigation of alternative sites for a hut on the Milford Track.
Sun studies were completed to help choose the new hut’s location to maximise warmth provided by short daylight hours in the steep sided valley. Heating efficiency was considered in the design and build to reduce the amount of fuel needed to heat the hut over its lifetime.
Modern building techniques and a focus on sustainability led to a hut that fits sympathetically into its natural environment and can last for more than 50 years without the need for significant upgrades or renovations.
Completing the Mintaro Hut replacement project in the remote and rugged environment of the Milford Track and living with wildlife, including a circus of juvenile kea who moved on site, made the project especially memorable for the building team!
The new hut has been built approximately 2km from the existing site and includes the hut warden’s quarters, a suspension bridge and a short section of new track to reach the site. Although walkers now have to go just a wee bit further on their second day on the Milford Track, they’re now perfectly placed for the climb to Ōmanui Mackinnon Pass.
The Mintaro Hut replacement project is part of a wider storytelling program that embeds Ngāi Tahu values at place. Walkers are in for a special treat when visiting the hut as they will see beautifully carved pouwhenua created especially to tell the part of the Ngāi Tahu creation story that is most relevant to this place and the work of Te Ruru. Every year, thousands of people attempt to book a place on the Milford Track to have their experience on our country’s most famous Great Walk. Now, they will enjoy a safe, comfortable, and sustainably designed hut that will last long into the future as shelter from the storm and so much more. When will you visit?