The Palmerston North Tramping and Mountaineering Club has taken over the task of maintaining public huts in the Ruahine Forest Park.
The club is among the first groups in New Zealand to sign a management agreement with the Department of Conservation to take over responsibility for huts.
As of December 1, the club has been working in partnership with DOC to manage the popular Rangiwahia Hut, and are responsible for upkeep and minor repairs of Ngamoko and Mid Pohangina huts.
The club marked the occasion with a trip to spring clean the huts and deliver firewood. Club members also took the opportunity to check some stoat traps in the area.
That trip earned instant rewards for club members. As they were travelling up and down the Pohangina River to install 33 additional stoat traps, trampers made several sightings of the whio, or blue duck.
The species is listed as vulnerable and is one of only a small number of fowl species around the world that live year-round in flowing rivers.
"We were lucky enough to see three pair of whio, including a family up toward Leon Kinvig hut - it was nice to see three bigger babies," tramping club trip co-ordinator Janet Wilson said.
The club is also a supporter of a community-led project to protect Ruahine Forest Park's whio.
"Protecting our natural resources is the responsibility of all New Zealanders, but it can be hard for individuals to know where to begin," acting area manager for DOC Manawatu Rangitikei Tim Gilbertson said.
"Fortunately, groups like PNTMC are leading the way to show other clubs and communities in our region how it's done."
- © Fairfax NZ News