Historic alpine hut a drawcard for festival

The public will get the chance to take a half-day walk into the bush and have a peek into a restored 1930s alpine hut during the Nelson Lakes Festival, on again at Lake Rotoiti's Kerr Bay next weekend.

Cared for by the Nelson Ski Club, which is celebrating 50 years of skiing at Mt Robert, the historic Kea Hut is normally locked, but it will be available for people to walk up to and look around from 10am to 2pm next Sunday.

Nelson Ski Club committee member Simon Field said it was built in 1934 by six "young, enthusiastic" Nelson guys in their 20s.

"If you think of the world context at the time - the Depression was on and these guys got this wild idea in their heads that they would explore the sport of skiing, which must have been pretty out there," he said.

"They found a spot and rowed the materials across the lake, carried them up the hill, and built themselves a sweet little hut."

Descendants of those original six men are still involved in its upkeep, including the son of one of the members, Bob Chittenden.

"We're trying to renovate it and make it as much as it was and make it available to young families and people who can experience a different sort of hut," Mr Chittenden said.

Now in its second year, the free Nelson Lakes Festival is raising funds for community emergency services. Destination Nelson Lakes committee member Helen Campbell said it was a drawcard for the alpine village last year, drawing hundreds of people.

This year the festival's focus is on history, and it will celebrate 170 years since New Zealand Company surveyor J S Cotterell first visited the area.

The festival will be in full swing on Sunday from 9am, and features local artists, including Jan Thomson, of Korimako Studio, and potters Dave and Barbara Smissen, and stalls selling food, local produce and plants.

Ready to answer questions about the area's history will be two authors: Auckland-based Graeme Godbaz, whose book about the Wairau Saddle/Tophouse area has just been published, and Arch Barclay, whose book The Moonlight Legacy follows the romantic gold prospector/explorer George Fairweather Moonlight. See festivalnelsonlakes.co.nz.

The Nelson Mail