Deep Creek Hut

Cardrona To Cromwell Pack Track, Pisa Conservation Area (Formerly Mt Pisa Station), Mount Pisa Range

  • Deep Creek Hut.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Guy Williams.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Guy Williams.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3243 Date Entered 15th December 2006


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes part of the land in the Pisa Conservation Area (Section 3 SO 327740, Otago Land District), and the building known as the Deep Creek Hut, the fixtures and fittings thereon. The registration includes a curtilage of 50m around the building in recognition of its setting.

City/District Council

Central Otago District


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 3 SO 327740, being part of Pisa Conservation Area under transfer 5852460.1 under s65(1) of the Crown Pastoral Land Act (Previously: Sec 3 SO 327740 being part Run 730 in Certificate of Title OT1C/818), Otago Land District

Location description

The Hut is located at the convergence of Skeleton Creek and the Cromwell to Cardrona Pack Track: Grid Reference 950800 (Hamel).


Deep Creek Hut was built as accommodation for high country musterers and other station workers in the late nineteenth century on the Cromwell-Cardrona Pack on the Mount Pisa Range in Central Otago. Such buildings were an important part of station infrastructure, which commonly included homesteads, workers' quarters, woolsheds, as well as boundary riders' and musterers' huts. As more of the high country tops are retired from grazing, the mustering huts represent the bygone history of station life. The Deep Creek Hut, with its position on the old Cromwell-Cardrona Pack track represents an important historic element of nineteenth century station life.

The history of large sheep runs such as Mt. Pisa Station dates from the early years of European settlement of Otago. Mt Pisa Station originally included a much larger area than it does today, stretching from Luggate to the Kawarau Gorge and including most of the eastern slopes of the Cardrona Valley. According to archaeologist Jill Hamel the station consisted of two sets of smaller runs, a series to the east numbered 245 and 245a-d, and a series to the west numbered 240 and 240a-d. Beattie names Run no. 245 as the Mt. Pisa Run, taken up by Herbert Myers and sold soon after to Wilkin and Thompson in 1858. Beattie states that Wilkin had 6000 sheep on his runs in September 1860. Wilkin is identified as the first settler in the Upper Clutha district, and had a homestead built at the head of Lake Wanaka in 1863, when he owned all the above land, stretching from Lake Wanaka to Cromwell. Parcell states that Wilkin sold the Mt. Pisa Run to Isodore Loughnan in 1867 and that the homestead dates to this time. An earlier cottage still stands among a number of structures behind the homestead, built in 1859, likely to be the first structure built in this area.

In 1882 the station was put up for auction in accordance with government policy of the time, of cutting up the large runs, but the occupiers outbid everyone else and continued to own the property.

The Cromwell-Cardrona Pack Track, on which the Deep Creek Hut stands, dates from the gold mining period of Central Otago's history. The Track begins from two different places: the gardens at the Ripponvale corner of the Kawarau Gorge, and from Lowburn Valley up Packspur Gully at the head of Swann Road. The route from Ripponvale climbed the longest and easiest spur at the southern end of the range, whereas the Packspur Gully line was shorter and steeper. After climbing over Mt Michael and continuing up to 4600 ft asl (1400m), the southern route then dropped very sharply 700 ft (213m) into the head of Skeleton Stream and straight out up the other side for 700 ft (213m) where it sidled along the hill until reaching a spur leading down into Roaring Meg. The 1893 Run Map and the cadastral and topographical maps showed these routes, although there is no mark on the ground showing its descent into Skeleton Stream. The known marks, where these have not been obliterated by farm tracks following the same line, follow the spur out of Packspur Gully, then circle the head of Skeleton Stream.

The Deep Creek Musterers' Hut is considered to date from the late nineteenth century, constructed on the Cardrona to Cromwell pack track, one of a number of tracks that was developed in the first years of exploration and settlement of the area to allow supplies to be carried by pack horse, built to a limited grade specification for the animals. Archaeologist Jill Hamel notes that the Hut is marked on an 1893 run map, and that the Murray McMillan, the current leaseholder dated the hut from 1891, but that it could be older. Hamel notes that formerly, several of these shelters would have stood on the larger run, but this is the only remaining example on the station today. These huts were used during the mustering season to provide housing for shepherds bringing in large flocks of sheep from the back country.

Finally in 1924 the extensive run was subdivided into twelve smaller units and the runs now known as Mt Pisa, Queensberry and Queensberry Ridges were formed. The McMillan family's occupation of the Mt Pisa station dates from this 1924 subdivision. A 'License to occupy Crown Lands for pastoral Purposes' was granted to William George McMillan, a shepherd, of Naseby in February of this year. The lease was transferred to William McMillan's grandson, Murray McMillan, in 1970.

Murray McMillan added to the hut between the early 1970s and 1990. These additions included installing a timber floor, adding an alcove with a stove, a gable addition, and a lean-to room and front porch.

Archaeologist Jill Hamel notes in her 1990 report that the it would be useful to compile plans of changes in the design of the hut from material held at the Mt Pisa Station archive, which would 'acknowledge that this hut is a piece of living history for which the functional changes should be recorded at about 20 year intervals'. Musterers' Huts were utilitarian structures, often constructed of corrugated iron, and generally small four by six metres. Deep Creek Hut, at 3.7m by 4.5m, is consistent with that construction type. The original hut has had an additional lean-to and veranda built around it. Hamel describes Deep Creek Hut as a corrugated hut of unusual design. The main room with a coal range has an extended alcove, built on later to serve as a dining room with a pot-bellied stove in it. There is a veranda with a small separate bunk room for the cook, a total of six bunks, a kauri dresser, a wood store and a shed for a portable generator to provide light. She describes it as a building of 'both character and convenience, in which the basic single-gabled hut with its six-paned windows is still visible among the surrounding additions'. She also suggested that when the runholder ceases to use the hut its future should be discussed and that there should be maintained.

In 2003 Mt Pisa Station Ltd applied for a review under the Crown Pastoral land Act 1998. This proposal was accepted and the title to the area of land on which Deep Creek Musterers' Hut stands passed to the Department of Conservation, with Mt. Pisa Station Ltd having grazing rights to this area for a further five years, until 2009. Mt Pisa Station Ltd has received freehold title to 4,691 hectares that includes the homestead block. The land is Conservation Land under the Crown Pastoral Land Act. The McMillan's hold a grazing license and concession to the Hut until their lease expires. The concession will expire with the lease, and the Hut will be administered by the Department of Conservation.

Since the tenure review was completed earlier in 2005, the Department of Conservation has locked the building as it does not meet their standards and it is no longer available for general use.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Hut has historical significance. The development of pastoralism in Otago in the nineteenth century shaped the landscape throughout the province, and is significant in the history of the region. As the large stations spread their stock over the countryside, structures were constructed to support the musterers and other station workers. These structures, such as Deep Creek Hut illustrate the historical operation of these stations, and reflect the farming methods of that period. The Hut was constructed in the late nineteenth century at the convergence of Skeleton Creek and the Cardrona to Cromwell Pack Track, a track constructed to allow supplies to be carried by pack horse over the Pisa and Criffel Ranges.

The Deep Creek Hut has architectural significance. The Hut was probably built in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The Hut's vernacular architectural style and materials is representative of many such nineteenth century stockmen's and musterers' huts that were once scattered throughout the Central Otago landscape. Originally a single gable structure with a single door and window, it is timber-framed, and clad in corrugated iron. It illustrates the building type which developed in these isolated areas to serve as accommodation for station workers. While some of these buildings still stand, many of them have been lost as changing methods of pastoral farming make them redundant and they are demolished. Archaeologist Jill Hamel notes that several of these shelters would have stood on the larger run, but this is the only remaining example on the station today.

The Deep Creek Hut demonstrates cultural significance in its association with high country farming, specifically mustering, a way of life that has now largely disappeared and been replaced by modern farming methods. These huts were used during the mustering season to provide housing for shepherds bringing in large flocks of sheep from the back country.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The Deep Creek Hut is representative of a significant part of New Zealand's history, nineteenth century Otago high country pastoralism and in particular the life and working conditions of musterers. The building was constructed as a musterer's hut during the nineteenth century and with additions continues to be used as a hut.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

The Hut has the potential to provide knowledge of New Zealand's history through its association with pastoral farming, a way of life that has changed significantly since its nineteenth century beginnings and has recently changed again through tenure review under the 1998 Crown Pastoral Land Act (1998).

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

It is an increasingly rare type of historic place with the numbers of the once common huts slowly dwindling as the facilities become outmoded. This type of building, predominantly unrecognised, is likely to disappear from the New Zealand landscape as such structures, no longer in use, are not maintained and fall into disrepair.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Heritage Advisor Guy Williams visited the Hut with Department of Conservation Wanaka Area Manager Paul Hellebrekers, concessionaire Murray McMillan, and Technical Support Officer Matt Schmidt in February 2006. Guy Williams provided an inventory of the building fabric and outlined the significance of the Deep Creek Hut. The physical description is based on that information.

Deep Creek Hut is located on the Pisa Range in sheltered bowl next to Deep Creek. The Hut sits next to the Cromwell-Cardrona Pack Track. Vehicle access was via Swann Road, in Lowburn Valley, following the track above Packspur Gully. The hut sits amidst tussock grassland. Approximately 10m to the south-west is the corrugated iron dunny for the Hut. Behind the dunny, dug into the hill are the shelters for the sheep dogs. About 15m to the south is a more modern tin shed, housing a boiler and shower facilities.

The original form of the hut was a single-gabled corrugated iron clad structure. Visible framing timbers are probably native; some rough sawn, some circular sawn. The original hut was added to in the 1970s: with a stove alcove, timber floors, a gable addition, front lean-to room and porch.

The brand mark visible on some of the corrugated iron is Lysaght Orb. John Lysaght as a company was established in Bristol and commenced manufacture of corrugated iron in 1857, exporting to many countries, including Australia. By 1880 Lysaght's had a central selling agency in Melbourne. The original Lysaght brand was ORB, followed in 1897 by a cheaper version, REDCLIFFE.

Of particular note is the pencil graffiti on the tin wall alongside the front door. This includes amongst other images, side on sketches of 'J. Johnson' and 'W. Turner', 'Tasmanian Champion Heavy weight Boxer' in fighting stance (and a nearby date of 1910). Research indicates that these fighters may be African American 1908 World Heavyweight titleholder Jack Johnson (1878-1946), who fought Australian Tommy Burns in 1908) , and Tasmanian Will Turner. There is further graffiti which should be properly recorded.

The historic dog shelters to the rear of the hut are of note. Some have been constructed as low stone walls, partially dug into the bank and with tin roofs retained in place with sods and rocks fitted over. These structures have significant heritage value in that they express the place and importance of sheep dogs in the shepherd work. The more modern dog shelters have limited heritage value.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1893 -

1970 - 1980
Stove alcove addition to NW end of original hut; installation of timber floor to original gable hut.

1971 - 1973
Gable addition to SE end of original hut.

1970 - 1975
Front lean-to room and front porch, NE side of original hut.

1989 - 1990
Rear lean-to room SW corner of SE gable addition to original hut.

2011 - 2012
Restoration of the hut by the Department of Conservation

Construction Details

Timber frame with corrugated iron cladding and roof.

Completion Date

25th August 2006

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Beattie, 1979

JH Beattie, The Southern Runs, Gore Historical Society, Invercargill, 1979

Cross, 2004

Tim Cross, 'Deep Creek Hut: Back Country Accommodation - Baseline Inspection Report' Inspected 28 January 2004, Department of Conservation, Invercargill

Hamel, 1990

J. Hamel, Historic and archaeological sites on Mount Pisa and Queensberry runs. Unpublished report to the Department of Conservation, Otago Conservancy, Dunedin, 1990

Olssen, 1984

Erik Olssen, A History of Otago, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1984

Parcell, 1976

J. T. Parcell, Heart of the Desert: A History of the Cromwell and Bannockburn Districts of Central Otago, Christchurch, Whitcoulls, 1976

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago / Southland Area Office

There are no archaeological sites recorded on the New Zealand Archaeological Association's site recording scheme in the vicinity of the Deep Creek Hut, nor are there any significant sites recorded in the Kai Tahu ki Otago Natural Resource Management Plan. There is however an unrecorded archaeological site, a rock shelter located between the Deep Creek Hut and the ruins of Murrell's Hut.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.