Introduction

Downies Hut in the Matakitaki Valley appears to be the second oldest wooden hut on DOC-managed land in the Nelson/Marlborough region.

Hut overview

Category

Basic/bivvies

Bookings

Bookings not required - first come, first served

Facilities

  • Heating
  • Mattresses
4 bunk beds

About this hut

Location

NZTopo50 map sheet: BS23

Grid/NZTM2000 coordinates: E1560616, N5335336

Altitude: 530 m above sea level

Fees

Free

Downies Hut.
Downies Hut

Heritage

The date of the building is not known, but it contains graffiti from 1902. Local knowledge is vague, but the Downie family claim it was built by Charles Downie (1843-1939) as a goldmining base.

It could also have been a musterers’ hut built by William Hunter, runholder of Matakitaki Station. Both Downie and Hunter were originally pitsawyers. During the 1940s and 50s, it was a cullers’ base as well as a musterers’ hut.

Musterers and cullers names are represented in the grafitti on inside walls More recently it has been used by trampers. Historic theme of pastoralism, mining and animal pests.

Historic significance

Downies Hut interior.
Downies Hut interior

This appears to be the second oldest (after Asbestos Cottage) wooden hut on DOC managed land in this region. Either through Charles Downie or William Hunter it has associations with Murchison’s prominent early settlers.

Fabric

Downies Hut is a 4.2 by 3.7 metre single room vertically clad with pitsawn beech boards and battens. The gable ends are of lapped weather-boards. Framing is also pitsawn beech. Recent corrugated iron roofing covers the original split shingles. The floor is of pitsawn boards. The doorway was originally in the north wall, but is now in the east wall. Three windows had also been added after 1946. Sheet iron chimney replaces an earlier wooden one. The Department carried out extensive repairs (to plan) to the hut including removing two windows in 1998.

Site is virtually unchanged. Hut sits on a grassy flat at the very edge of beech forest. The Ella Range (2000 metres) rises steeply behind it.

Downies Hut. Photo: Steve Bagley.
Downies Hut (built 1900)

Fabric significance

A now rare example of a well built backcountry hut of pitsawn timber. Construction of vertical board and batten cladding over internal framing is again representative and a step beyond slab construction.

Future management

The hut was conserved to the specifications of a Conservation Plan (Steve Bagley, 1997) in April 1998 and will continue to be maintained as an historic backcountry trampers hut to protect its historic fabric and minimise deterioration. The plan contains more information about the hut.

Contacts

Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 3 521 1806
Address:   View Road
St Arnaud
Email:   nelsonlakesvc@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
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