3 Dec 2022

Police investigating report of further Te Urewera hut burnings

4:44 pm on 3 December 2022
Te Urewera's Lake Waikaremoana.

Police are investigating a report of further hut fires. FIle image. Photo: 123rf

Police are investigating a report that eight huts in the Te Urewera National Park have burnt down.

Officers believe the fires took place between 19 November 19 and 29 November.

Te Uru Taumatua, the operating arm of iwi Ngāi Tūhoe, was dismantling huts until it was forced to stop by the High Court last month, pending a hearing.

Earlier this week, Te Uru Taumatua first confirmed theOtamatuna Hut in the Waimana Valley was damaged by a fire, thought to be suspicious.

Former Te Urewera Mainland Island project manager Pete Shaw said the Otamatuna Hut fire was a travesty.

"It's just part of the ongoing degradation of Te Urewera under Te Uru Taumatua. They've let the tracks go over, they've let the weeds run rampant, they've let the pests go ballistic."

Shaw knew the 1990s-built hut well.

"I was working for DOC [the Department of Conservation] when the hut was built. Prior to that, we had a rumpty little dirt floor hut next door, which we used for a few years with an open fireplace. The new hut was like a palace by comparison."

It was not open to the general public.

"The Otumatuna Hut was built specifically for biodiversity work, so it was a big base for people doing pest control and also people that were monitoring rare species like kōkako especially," Shaw said.

But the conservation work had now been dialled back to its bare bones, he said.

"It was the home to the biggest kōkako population in the world, but the way things are going, they stand to be functionally extinct within five years."

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