Swastikas painted on Department of Conservation hut on West Coast

5:32 pm on 8 February 2024
Damage to Kirwans Hut on West Coast

The remote Kirwans Hut is in the Victoria Forest Park, northeast of Reefton. Photo: Supplied / DOC

Vandals have painted swastikas on a restored backcountry hut on the West Coast, with police called over the "senseless, sickening" vandalism.

The remote Kirwans Hut in the Victoria Forest Park, northeast of Reefton, is on the historic Kirwans Track, a two to three day 40km circuit for experienced trampers.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Western South Island operations director Mark Davies said the hut damage was found by a visitor in January.

The 12-bed hut, built in the 1980s, has reopened after DOC field staff undertook repairs recently.

Davies said the damage included swastikas being painted on the roof and external walls.

"Whoever did the damage took paint stored on site to daub swastikas on the hut roof and external walls, as well as the water tank," he said.

Damage to Kirwans Hut on West Coast

Swastikas were painted onto the 12-bed Kirwans Hut and inside the toilet area. Photo: Supplied / DOC

The vandals also smeared paint on the inside of a new toilet, broke the toilet lid, smashed the hut guttering that feeds the hut's water tank, and broke part of the boardwalk to the toilet.

Damage to Kirwans Hut on West Coast

Photo: Supplied / DOC

They had also made a general mess inside the hut.

It came less than a year after the Backcountry Trust undertook a major revamp of the hut, including a new coloursteel roof as one of their Jobs for Nature projects.

"The damage is senseless, sickening and extremely disappointing for DOC, the Backcountry Trust which upgraded the hut, and trampers using the facility," Davies said.

In March 2023, four trust volunteers undertook the upgrade over four days, which took 200 hours of labour.

"I know the team was particularly proud of how well the hut came up through their efforts."

Davies said Kirwans was a popular hut and used a lot over summer.

"Our DOC team put in a great deal of effort in the leadup to Christmas to ensure it was accessible."

DOC staff removed the swastikas and repaired the damage, including painting over the new roof as there was no other way to remove the graffiti.

Davies said the cleanup was costly as it took staff away from other essential work.

The hut is one of a trio of similar huts built on the West Coast by the former NZ Forest Service including Big Hut also in Victoria Forest Park, and the Ces Clarke Hut on the Paparoa Range.

DOC staff have visited other huts in the surrounding area to check for similar vandalism, but Kirwans was the sole target.

Victoria Forest Park is the largest park of its type in the country with a network of tracks, many dating back to mining days and with relics scattered amid regenerating forest.

Police are asking anyone with any information about the vandalism at Kirwans Hut to call them on 105; or go online citing case file number: 240116/7979.

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