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The last frontier a venture too far

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 12:30 04/03/2014

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Dave Hutton was an intrepid adventurer who died doing what he loved.

The wetsuit-clad body of the 72-year-old Ruby Bay man was found by trampers near the mouth of the Kahurangi River on the remote and wild northern West Coast on Sunday and police named him yesterday.

His partner of three decades, Kathy Trott, said he was attempting a solo trek from Anatori to Karamea and his family presumed that instead of heading inland into thick bush, he tried to go around the coastline.

A post mortem revealed he died from a fall. Mrs Trott said Mr Hutton was well-prepared for the trip but that it was one that his family had urged him not to do.

"I said, ‘You don't have to do this Dave. It's terribly harsh country and you're on your own.' He said ‘I won't do it if I think it's too hard. I'll just play around by the [Kahurangi] lighthouse.' I was expecting him back any day. I never expected he'd do what he did."

Mr Hutton left his car at Anatori, the southwestern end of the road in Golden Bay, on Thursday, and spent Friday night at Kahurangi Point hut. His stepson, Cam Trott, said the hut book showed he left about 5am on Friday.

South of Kahurangi Point the terrain becomes very difficult, with steep headlands such as the Tauparika Cliff, Rocks Point and Wekakura Point.

Mr Hutton had discussed the trip with Mr Trott many times. It was one that had been on Mr Hutton's bucket list for about a decade and over the past year, he had become more focused on it, said Mr Trott. He had read Gerard Hindmarsh's account of the trip in New Zealand Geographic and went to see the author about it.

"The West Coast throws up those kinds of last frontier adventures - no route, no track, just you against nature."

Those were the sorts of adventures that Mr Hutton had pursed his whole life. He left England to go to sea aged 16 and spent most of his life at sea. He worked on coastal traders, then in international shipping, taught himself to dive and was one of the first salvage divers on the wreck of the Mikhail Lermontov. He was the second person in New Zealand to develop a mussel farm in the Marlborough Sounds, built one of the first hang gliders in the country and was, at age 72, still a keen paraglider, diver and tramper.

He met Mrs Trott in the mid-1980s at the Mapua Leisure Park soon after her first husband died and together they developed the park into a busy summer destination. Mrs Trott said Mr Hutton "lived for the sea and by the sea and the only time he came to ground was when we ran the Leisure Park".

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"He had a restlessness in him and sometimes he had to go off by himself. He didn't abide people talking to him when he was in the bush."

Together the couple had many adventures, from trekking through Indonesia and summiting many of its tallest peaks, to sailing around New Zealand and the Pacific. Mr Hutton loved Indonesian people and culture and returned most winters. He was a skilled artist and had spent three months last winter sketching in Ubud, Bali.

He had also been a key early campaigner with the Campaign Against Noxious Substances which worked to identify dangers at the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company site in Mapua.

"Dave never put any limitations on himself. He had no fear for what he could do personally. It's a great way to be but the fallout is the grief and the loss for those of us left behind," said Mrs Trott.

"He was a great man, a great father and Poppa and we'll all miss him so much."

Mr Hutton's first wife Louise McDougall, his sons Andrew and Michael, and stepchildren Cam Trott and Bridget Wild all live in Nelson/Tasman.

Family and friends will be celebrating Mr Hutton's life at the Mapua Leisure Park on Friday.

- The Nelson Mail

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