A unique road to the top of the Ruahine Range could be blocked to protect a hut from vandalism by users of motorbikes and four-wheel- drives.
A-Frame Hut, also known as Travers Hut, is next to Takapari Rd, on top of the southern Ruahine Range near Dannevirke, in the country's largest expanse of native leatherwood and with views across the lower North Island.
But the hut's close proximity to vehicles means it has been so trashed by vandals that the Department of Conservation is looking at closing it, and possibly the road as well, within four months unless a community group takes charge of its upkeep.
"We can't continue to pour money into a facility that's going to be trashed," DOC Manawatu-Wairarapa partnerships manager Chris Lester said.
He thought it unlikely that anyone would take on the job, knowing motorised vandals would wreck their work, which was why he was also considering closing the road.
"We have to look at whether this is an appropriate place for 4WD and quad riding, or should we try and prevent it."
The road, originally built along with A-Frame Hut in the 1970s for forestry workers, is the only unrestricted, driveable route to the top of the Ruahine Range.
DOC Manawatu assets manager Andrew Mercer, who is a defender of the road, said the hut was used by trail runners, trampers and hunters, but exact figures were not available "because the hut book keeps getting stolen, shot or burned".
About 4000 vehicles used the Takapari Rd annually and, while the vandalism was frustrating, many of those users could not walk far and would otherwise not have access to the forest park, he said.
"DOC policy is getting more people out into outdoor recreation, and 4WD users are people too."
DOC is consulting the newly formed Ruahine Users Group about future care of the hut. The Ruahine Deerstalkers Association, a group member, already cares for three huts near Dannevirke, but president Vince Payne said it would probably not take on A-Frame's care as well, because it was too much of a vandalism risk.
Manawatu 4WD Club secretary Peter Robertson said he doubted his club would adopt the hut, as members seldom used it. But the Takapari Rd was an "awesome" place and access should be preserved. "It's used by families, old people . . . they can't shut it off just because of a few idiots."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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