Kaikawaka Villa

Tongariro Forest Park, Ruapehu

  • Kaikawaka Villa North Western Views.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Katherine Mercer. Date: 25/11/2004.
  • Kaikawaka Villa interior facing South.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Katherine Mercer. Date: 25/11/2004.
  • Kaikawaka Villa interior north end.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Katherine Mercer. Date: 25/11/2004.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7620 Date Entered 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes the building, surrounding clearing, and the steep bank to the east of the building used as a rubbish tip, and its curtilage on land described in NZ Gazette, 1926, p.1193.

City/District Council

Ruapehu District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Pt F, ML Plan 1376, (NZ Gazette, 1926, p. 1193 (State Forest)), Wellington Land District

Location description

The easiest access is through the Landcorp Farm adjacent to the Tongariro Forest Park which allows 4WD vehicles to get within a few hundred metres of the hut.


The rustic looking 'Kaikawaka Villa', near Raurimu, was constructed in the 1930s by the Bowley brothers and is now rare example of a shelter built for, and by, bushmen.

Such quickly constructed bushmen's huts were only intended to last until the timber supply cut out: George and Charles Bowley built a number of huts during their time in the bush, but it is remarkable that even one has survived. The Kaikawaka Villa has physical importance as a rare remaining example of a particular construction technique. To erect the hut, the Bowley brothers used split kaikawaka timber slabs sourced on site for both walls and roof over a frame of timber in the round creating a one room gabled roofed structure. They also incorporated some recycled materials, such as flour sacks and bricks.

The hut was occupied on weekdays by the brothers, who mainly produced hand-split kaikawaka and white pine fencing battens, which were valued for their durability and fire resistant properties. At weekends, they would don their suits and return to Raurimu where their family lived. Later, perhaps in the 1950s, another cutting contractor, Perry Smith, occupied the hut for an extended period with his wife, Biddy 'Ma' Smith. Despite working hard in often harsh conditions in dense bush, all occupants spoke fondly of their lifestyle.

As the native timber industry declined, the vacated hut was used only occasionally by hunters and it became somewhat overgrown with plant matter. In 1987 State Forest 42 was transferred to the Department of Conservation after lobbying by various local groups. Now in an area known as the Tongariro Forest Park, the Kaikawaka Villa is managed as a historic hut. In 1996 the hut was restored and the framing was replaced with totara. Difficulty in getting sufficient kaikawaka for the restoration also prompted the use of totara in other sections of the hut. The roof, which was replaced, is still covered in kaikawaka shakes and appears to be unique in New Zealand.

This remarkable survivor provides good opportunities for public education, surrounded by a landscape transformed by the early timber milling industry.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

It appears that few huts built as bushmen's shelters remain extant. The building is therefore of historical and social value, providing an insight into early New Zealand adaptations of European building techniques and into the living conditions of 19th and early 20th century settlers, particularly bushmen.

The Kaikawaka Villa's technological and architectural value is based on the skills of resourceful bushmen to construct a low cost shelter in a remote location, predominantly from timber available on site supplemented by some (predominantly recycled) man-made materials. The timber was cut and split by hand, not milled, but despite this the shelter was constructed in just two days. It is:'an excellent example of bush carpentry, a robust and functional structure that served its purpose well'.

It has a plain rectangular plan layout with a gable roof, giving it a simple form that is characteristic of the earliest European dwellings built in New Zealand; it has some value in demonstrating today the way in which early bushmen and settlers were able to make primitive dwellings largely from the materials to be found in the bush.

The use of kaikawaka sheathing, particularly as roof shakes, and of timber in the round is unusual today - no other examples have been identified at this time. This is despite early settlers regularly utilising kaikawaka for roof shakes, window frames, and so forth.

There is a certain irony in having a hut built to facilitate the cutting down of forest, now being used by trampers to facilitate the enjoyment of the forest in a conservation context. Timber extraction was important to the economy of the area up to the mid-20th century, but cultural values have changed as native timbers became more scarce - largely as a result of milling: now the area's economy is primarily dependent on the income generated from preserving the native forest. As such it is an important cultural artefact, its history demonstrating changing societal values.

The rubbish tip associated with the hut is likely to be undisturbed by people. While the site is not over 100 years old, archaeological excavation of the midden is likely to shed more light on the lifestyle of bushmen in the King Country, providing a deeper understanding of the kinds of material culture used and perhaps created by the hut's inhabitants in this remote location, eg 1930s bushmen in a dry area do not fit the typical wine drinker stereotype, but there is at least one wine bottle on site from a Te Kauwhata winery.

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

The timber industry was important in the development of early New Zealand, with the number of saw mills peaking in 1905 at 414, employing 6,912 people. This figure is unlikely to include self-employed bushmen such as the Bowley brothers, who cut and split timber by hand. The stories of the development and the decline of many small towns in the King Country (and elsewhere in New Zealand) are intimately entwined with the health of the timber industry, of which Raurimu is one example.

The simple style of hut is also similar to that used by early European pioneers and by those attempting to scrape out a living by breaking-in farms during the Depression years.

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

The hut appears to be a rare survivor and the associated rubbish tip is likely to be undisturbed by people. While the site is not over 100 years old, archaeological excavation of the midden is likely to shed more light on the lifestyle of bushmen in the King Country.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The land is in DoC ownership and the public are permitted access. Chris Cochran stated that the hut has 'a simple form that is characteristic of the earliest European dwellings built in New Zealand; it has some value in demonstrating today the way in which early bushmen and settlers were able to make primitive dwellings largely from the materials to be found in the bush'. The existence of at least two oral history recordings of one of the Bowley brothers and at least one newspaper interview with the occupants (Bowley brothers and Biddy Smith) means that there is rich source material available for developing the site interpretation further. The site has already been incorporated in public programs and the Draft Conservation Report is available on site.

The nature of the surrounding landscape and the proximity of the sawmill operating in the National Park Village provides potential for a broad educational experience about the changing native timber industry and its transformation of the landscape, for example through the development of a heritage trail or guided tours.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

Chris Cochran comments that: The hut has technological significance as one built almost entirely from materials available at the site. This has resulted in a building that is an excellent example of bush carpentry, a robust and functional structure that served its purpose well.

Of particular technological interest include the frame of split kaikawaka and beech poles; [these have since been replaced], and the sheathing of split kaikawaka slabs and battens.

Other materials of interest include the corrugated iron to line the chimney, malthoid sheet as a waterproofing membrane in the roof structure, and a cast iron wood range.

The use of materials on hand and recycled materials - especially the ubiquitous flour bags may be indicative of construction during the Depression.

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

In his 1994 conservation report on the Kaikawaka Villa, Chris Cochran described the hut as 'a rare example of one built almost entirely from timber felled and worked on the site'. This is still true for the bulk of the structure post-restoration. He went on to say that the 'Hut is unique, as far as is known, in having a roof sheathing of split slabs'.

Chris Cochran identified similar huts as being: Old Manson's Hut (built late 1940s) in the Kaweka Forest Park, and Cone Hut (1946, recycling some 1930s materials) in Tararua Forest Park. Both are fully framed structures of split and adzed timbers sheathed with split timber slabs. Neither use kaikawaka.

Other huts with split timber slab sheathings include: Price's Flat Hut (c1908, refurbished 1930s) on the Whitcombe Pass, and the Baine Hut (1942) in Rimutaka Forest Park.

A 1937 photograph of the first Sayers Hut (1909) in the Tararua Forest Park shows an identical style of chimney on a hut sheathed largely in slabs with a wooden shingle roof - the kind of roof shakes kaikawaka was sometimes used for. However, the hut is no longer in existence.

From examination of the photographs, few of the surviving huts have their original chimneys. The kind of chimney structure used in the Kaikawaka Villa is commonly seen in the early photographs of railhead camps such as Raurimu in the early 19th Century. Malthoid was also used as a waterproof cladding on timber framed huts of a standard design produced initially by the Internal Affairs Department and later by Forest Services.

Most of the similar surviving huts were built and used for mustering, recreational purposes, or pest control. The Kaikawaka Villa is unusual in this regard, as it was built and used by bushmen as a residence for long periods, by two successive families: a distinctly different purpose. Of the 58 historic huts listed on the Department of Conservation web site, only one is associated with timber milling (Port Craig School House and Sawmill Site) and none are bushmen's huts. However, this list is not exhaustive: the Kaikawaka Villa itself is not listed at this time, nor does the list include sites owned by anyone other than DoC. The NZHPT register includes just five sites associated with the timber industry, including the Orton Bradley Park Millhouse in Port Chalmers, which is a Category I building, a kiln, two sawmilling sites, and a lodge. Bushmen's huts were generally built to last only as long as it took to extract the timber, and were not designed for aesthetic beauty or great comfort, so the Kaikawaka Villa appears to be a rare, remaining example.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

In the early 1930s, sawmilling was still the largest industry in the King Country. Timber and the railways were the lifeblood of the Raurimu village.

The Kaikawaka Villa stands in a landscape transformed by bushmen such as the Bowley brothers. Travelling to the hut from the south, one passes through National Park Village where one of the last sawmills in the area is still operating. Between National Park and Raurimu there are some stands of kaikawaka visible from the road. If accessing the hut via the Raurimu village, one passes the site of the last Raurimu timber mill (demolished but with overgrown sawdust heaps), almost directly across the Main Trunk Line from the old Bowley weatherboard home (on the left): Bowley descendents lived there until relatively recently. Further on one passes through farmland, cleared of forest, partially by timber workers such as the Bowleys; the process was finished by burning. The paddocks are still littered with old tree stumps, and evidence of the milling is regularly seen in discarded steel ropes, rusting pieces of machinery, cuttings where the bush trams ran and the platforms used for loading the logs onto transport. At least some of the farms have fences constructed with kaikawaka battens, such as those the brothers and probably Smith were producing. The final part of the journey is through a forest where it is no longer so easy to find old kaikawaka trees.

In 1977 the road that the brothers helped construct to provide access to the forest, was still open and providing the main access route to the old timberlands. Similarly, several miles of tramlines were still in existence on what was Lands and Survey-managed territory. If these are still in existence they form part of the brothers' and the areas social history.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Bowley, Charles and George

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

In the early 1930s, Bradbury's guide to the King Country states that sawmilling was practically the only industry in the King Country. There are still vast areas of bush remaining, although much of it is not easily accessible. It is estimated that there are at least 2,000,000,000 feet of timber in the bush lying between Kakahi and Lake Taupo. MP F. Langstone in a 1935 speech commented that the King Country had possibly the largest area of native forest left in New Zealand of which 35,000 acres belonged to the Crown and was known as the Tongariro Block. Langstone was optimistic about the area's future, expecting that as the country recovered from the Depression, 'the engine and the saw and the axe and the mills [would be] turning out timber to make for the people the comfortable homes they were entitled to'. At this time the State Forest Service administered 11.8% of New Zealand's land. Timber milling in the Raurimu had begun in 1903, initially to cut sleepers for the Main Trunk Railway construction. There were generally around 10 mills operating in the locality, but by the 1960s they had all shut down.

According to Arden and Bowman, New Zealand's earliest European settlers followed the ancient English tradition of timber slab construction, which was continued by builders of tramping huts into the 1930s. The Kaikawaka Villa resembles the huts built by early timber millers in the Raurimu area, and is unusual in that, of those huts that survive, this one was built for bushmen, not trampers, and was continuously occupied for extended periods of time.

The Bowley family moved to Raurimu in 1928. While still a boy, Charlie worked in a mill, mostly slabbing. He stayed in a hut at the mill, where the cookhouse provided beautiful food. Later, he worked on the skids and roping logs, doing cross cutting (cutting logs into lengths), breaking out and using a steam-operated winch with inch thick wire rope, working a 44-hour week. At one stage he worked on a farm, but he preferred working in the bush. Their father was a tram track layer all his life, and when Charlie joined his family in Raurimu in 1931 he worked with his father and brother George in this occupation: they would level the ground then lay the wooden tracks used by horse-drawn bush trams and rail tractors (bogey trucks) for transporting logs to the mills. At times the brothers would also work in the local mills.

At the time of construction, Charles worked for his younger brother, George Bowley. They were splitting contractors, cutting and splitting silverpine (Lagarostrobus colensoi) and kaikawaka (or New Zealand cedar, Libocedrus plumosa). This was their full-time occupation. Both are small types of tree, valued because they were light (softwoods), easy to split and very durable, naturally resisting both fire and rot. Silver pine and kaikawaka are very durable, and, as the supply of totara dwindled, the use of both silver pine and kaikawaka increased. Silverpine was used for telegraph poles. Silver pine and kaikawaka were used for fence battens, railway sleepers (creosoted) and some cabinetry work. Kaikawaka was also used for weatherboards, foundation blocks, roof shakes/shingles (like those on the hut), fire doors, window frames for local use (as with the hut), low grade lead pencils, and corduroy: The horses tore the track to pieces in a very little time so corduroy had to go on. 'Corduroy' refers to kaikawaka which grew in the bush nearby and was used as it was easy to cut and split. These battens were laid down side by side to give a firm footing. Jack Blyth recalls it taking about an hour to lay a metre of track in this way, from cutting down the tree to laying down the corduroy. The Bowley's participated in road and track construction at various times, so it is likely that they had used kaikawaka in this way also.

When they built the hut, the Bowleys were 'cutting and splitting timber for posts, battens, telegraph poles etc'. According to local bushman Noel Heath, the brothers primarily cut fence battens: in an era when fires were frequent, kaikawaka and totara fences would survive any farm fires. In 1936 the cutting of kaikawaka and silver pine formed a tiny percentage of the total New Zealand timber harvest and the Government was warning about limited supplies. An area of about eight hectares of silver pine near Lake Waikaremoana yielded around 40-50 000 fence battens in the 1930s. In Westland, the peak period for silver pine fence posts was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, after totara became scarce and with production falling again as treated radiata pine became more common.

Cutting contractors such as the Bowleys would get fence-splitting rights to a block of approximately 200 acres, paying royalties back to the Forest Service. Sawmillers would then follow and take every millable tree. However, at the Bowleys' block the bank to the east was too steep, so it was never cut over by saw millers, although there was a tramline close by (there is a loading platform on adjacent farmland). When making kaikawaka battens, the bushmen felled the trees, then cut the logs into 3'10 lengths, split the bark and sap wood off, then hand-split the heart wood into battens. The battens were then sent out to Waverley, Waitotara and Maxwell: the first step in transporting them was to 'snig' them out using a draught horse pulling a sledge, a load would be approximately 150 battens. It was said that one brother would load the sledge, then their horse would be sent out (finding its own way) to the other brother who would unload the sledge, stacking the battens into a pile, sending the horse back for another load. In 1953 they started using TD6 tractors instead of a horse; the tractor could pull 500-600 battens on a sled, or pull two loaded sleds in wet conditions when the ground was slipperier. The sled would be made on the spot using the materials at hand, poles with turned up ends would act as runners.

The block they worked was too far to walk to from home on a daily basis, so they built a number of shelters in the bush over the years. According to Charles Bowley, at other sites they sometimes used old flour sacks (jute sacking) as a fly (roof): rain would make the flour set, making a strong roof. The recycling of materials, particularly flour bags, was a common activity during the Depression. Like timber-mill houses, such huts were not built with the intention of lasting, built quickly and left unpainted to last only as long as it took to extract the timber, which makes the hut's survival all the more remarkable.

The Kaikawaka Villa is the only one of the Bowley huts known to be still standing, and was named by the by the brothers after the timber they built it from. Charlie in particular had a reputation as a bit of a character, which is reflected in their use of the term 'Villa' - a tongue in cheek overstatement. The camp was built just over 3 miles into the block of bush they were cutting. The hut was primarily constructed from four Kaikawaka trees cut from the site, which were cut it into slabs. The hut took the Bowley brothers two days to build. Corrugated iron, glass, the cast iron range, and recycled bricks would have had to be brought in, probably either by horse or on their backs.

The corrugated iron used in the hut bears the trademarks of Staley and of Redcliffe. The British firm, Lysaght, produced the Redcliffe brand of corrugated iron from 1897, a cheaper version of their Orb brand. They exported in large quantities to the southern hemisphere. Charlie described the hut as 'nice and warm'. The large corrugated iron fireplace accommodated 2-3 camp ovens, several iron pots and a billy. It is likely that it has been used to smoke meat.

The oral history interview with Charles Bowley, recorded when he was 90 years old, gives an insight into the kinds of materials they were using at the site. When in camp, the brothers would rise at 5:30 am and make breakfast. This was porridge served with golden syrup, chops/bacon, eggs (whatever they had on hand) and a cup of tea. In Raurimu, their 'old man milked a cow', but 'us jokers in the bush' had canned milk. Breakfast was served in enamel plates mostly bought from McGlynns Bargain Store - they were very cheap due to being fire-damaged stock from Auckland and lasted the brothers for years. They took their lunch out into the bush with them: jam, bread, cheese, butter, meat. About 11 am they would boil the billy and have sweet tea with no milk and a snack. At around 2 pm they would have smoko consisting of leftovers from lunch (if there were any) and sweet billy tea. When they returned home at the end of the day they would have a lump of cabin bread (an important kitchen staple) and cup of tea before fixing dinner. Dinner tended to consist of meat, potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, sometimes corn. Every so often they would buy fore-quarters of boiled bacon which they would have sent down on an express train from Auckland. They bought supplies from the local greengrocers and the three local stores operating in Raurimu at the time. The brothers always had pudding - rice pudding or plum duff for example. Most of their cooking was done in a camp oven, including yeast bread and sweet dough-boys. Charlie remembered the meals fondly: 'beautiful food'. After cleaning up from tea they would get ready for bed, usually retiring about 8 pm. There was no radio or newspaper for entertainment, but they did not miss them.

The hut was occupied in a period associated with 'sly grogging': the King Country was a dry area due to an agreement with the Maori King which was not revoked until the early 1950s. While the Bowley brothers were aware of local brewing activity, they avoided spirits but did drink wine. One of the older bottles at the door of the hut is from a Te Kauwhata winery. Excavation of the brothers' rubbish tip, down the bank to the east of the hut, is likely to provide more information about the distribution and consumption of liquor at this time, as well as other information about their diet, etc.

The brothers had a wash basin they used in the hut. They would use Taniwha soap for their washing, Lifeboy for toilet soap and sand soap for cleaning. A track leading from the north-eastern corner of the hut leads down to the stream. The brothers' bathed in the stream - Charles commented on the water's coldness.

In winter the brothers wore jerseys and warm woollen underwear, leggings, capes, Sou-Westers (oilskin hats) and leather boots if the weather was not too wet. Generally they wore sprig boots which were very waterproof and gave a good foothold when working in the bush ('better than hobnail boots'), or rubber boots. Most of their clothing was bought locally, sometimes from travelling shops.

There was no electricity in Raurimu until 1940. In the bush camp, the brothers usually used candles which were stuck through an old tea tin. They bought kerosene and candles locally. Torches were not very reliable at that time, so they did not bother with them.

While Charlie was a bachelor all his life, his brother George was married and had children. The pair would go home to Raurimu for the weekends from their bush camp dressed in their suits. Charlie particularly enjoyed going to see movies screened in the district on a Saturday night. Others in the community enjoyed regular dances, drinking and gambling. The brothers would return to the hut after the weekend carrying stores on their backs, dressed in their suits, changing into their bushmen's clothing when arriving back at the hut.

There is still no lock on the door: Charlie commented that 'men were honest', so the brothers never locked the camp and would have been thought strange if they had done so. He always left his money on the mantelpiece. Sometimes others would borrow from it while he was out, but would always return what they had borrowed. It was quite normal for other people to go into the hut to make themselves a cup of tea, then tidy up and leave a note to say they had been there.

Charles served in World War II: it is not clear whether George went with him. If so, it is possible that the hut was left vacant during this period. In 1948 they were both back splitting contracting in the bush near where they had their camp when they heard a Lockheed Electra plane crash on Mt Ruapehu, which killed 13 people. In December 1953 they assisted in rescue efforts after Tangiwai Rail disaster, as did many Raurimu residents. It is not clear when the brothers finally stopped using the hut. However, Charlie said he lived in the bush 10-12 yrs (not necessarily all around Raurimu) and despite what many today would consider great hardships, he loved the bushman's life: given the opportunity he would have continued in that lifestyle.

After the brothers' occupation, the hut was lived in for an extended period by Perry Smith and his wife, Biddy 'Ma' Smith, possibly during the 1950s. Biddy was the daughter of the owners of the Spiral Hotel in Raurimu: the source of the 1925 fire which wiped out much of the village just a month after she had married Perry. Perry, like the Bowleys, was a splitting contractor and as the Smiths had no children Biddy was able to live with him in the camp. She loved living there, although she was afraid to go too far from the hut due to the dense bush. Biddy 'used to knit and sew and read when I wasn't fossicking around in the bush; I have never been happier'. In her opinion people at that time 'were tougher and thought nothing of going out in the snow to chop wood to heat water for hand washing. There was no electricity and we were forever filling kerosene lamps and making candles'. Biddy lived most of her life in the Raurimu area, but by 1977 she had shifted to Taumarunui and has since died.

In 1977 visitors to the hut described finding the villa 'well hidden within a dense 40 year regrowth of native timber'. Nonetheless, the hut was dry and provided good shelter. They described the old bed, a basic table and totara bookshelves. The 'iron range is coated with the candlewax of 40 years ago and a lone gumboot litters the corner'. One of the visitors was Chas Bowley: 'It's just the same as I left it - but the bark's got older, just like me,' he said. He was accompanied by Marshall Gebbie, a guide for horseback tours of the area who was interested in making the hut a destination for some of his horse treks.

The Bowleys continued in the Raurimu area until their deaths. George Bowley was on the Raurimu Primary School Committee, and when the school closed in 1976 the buildings were transformed into a hostel advertised by the YHA: George became the hostel warden. When Charles was interviewed in the early 1990s in Taumarunui Hospital he was 90 years old and still capable of spinning a good yarn, however his brother had died many years previously.

According to DoC, between 1903 and 1978, State Forest 42 supported 43 timber mills. Hundreds of millions of board feet of timber were extracted before a dwindling supply of accessible trees saw the decline of these mills. As a result of the decline in native timber for milling, the NZ Forest Service proposed developing the land into farmland or exotic pine plantations. However, after a strong campaign from the local community, Federated Farmers, Royal Forest & Bird, Rifle, Rod & Gun, the local tramping club, Rotarians and Borough and County Councils wanting the area preserved as a park for conservation and recreation as well as protection of Owhango's water supply catchment, saw all remaining native forest transferred to the Department of Conservation in 1987.

By 1992 the hut was commonly known as the 'Kaiwaka Villa,' and it was said that the brothers called it this. However, kaiwaka is the South Island Maori name for Syzygium maire or swamp maire, plus in both a newspaper interview and an oral history interview the brothers used the name “Kaikawaka Villa.”

Very low key publicity about the hut and a lack of easy access has probably contributed to the hut's survival. In 1996-7 some conservation work was undertaken as the hut had become overgrown and somewhat dilapidated. The remaining Bowley family members were consulted about the work. There was some difficulty in obtaining appropriate timber: the bushmen's work had resulted in a lack of the appropriate timbers close to hand plus cutting down live trees was not an option. Some kaikawaka was source from a batten splitting operation on the Landcorp Taurewa Farm Block, where the wood was split then transported 20 km to the hut site. The two chimney corner posts were replaced with old silver pine telegraph poles from the Erua railway station. They were brought to the nearby farm fence on a DoC truck, then sledged to the site behind a motorbike. The rubbish tip over the bank received further contributions during this period, including the remnants of the original range's chimney. The steep bank which is used as a tip is difficult to access, so there is a good chance this has remained undisturbed and is likely to be a source of useful archaeological deposits which could give greater context to the hut's history.

Despite various visitors over time, some of the hut's original chattels appear to have remained, such as the range, the old bed and bottles. The hut's visitors' book includes an entry from a Bowley descendant: Much appreciation from the family for the care of Kaiwaka villa and pleasure that so many can see and enjoy it.

DoC manages the Villa as an historic hut, which encourages use of the site as a recreational destination, but not as a place to stay. Nonetheless there is some anecdotal evidence plus contemporary materials such as a bedroll, which suggests the hut continues to be used by hunters and trampers. Approved recreational use has included guided visits as part of the DoC Summer Programme (the 2004-5 season will include a 4WD visit) and visits by trampers. DoC staff have recommended the production of interpretative and educational materials about the hut in combination with a supportive conservancy historic resources strategy to ensure the hut's long term survival.

Physical Description

The hut measures 4.36 m long x 2.87 m wide x 2.47 m to the ridge, and was originally constructed from four Kaikawaka trees harvested from the site and cut it into slabs. Chris Cochran describes the joinery as basic and serviceable rather than accurate and tight-fitting. The whole of the exterior of the hut is sheathed in split kaikawaka slabs, including the roof, which is sheathed in roof shakes. The full-height of the vertical slabs that form the walls have split battens over the joints, with a separate layer in the gable ends. Noel Heath is a local bushman, and in his opinion, the hut walls and roof would have been made from the discarded outer timber and bark, rather than the heart timber.

The hut's structural frame of beech in the round was unusual but, due to rot, the Department of Conservation replaced these with totara posts in 1996 as part of a restoration project. The poles are sunk into the ground in each corner.

Horizontal poles join the tops of the posts, a further six horizontal poles are used to frame the roof, both as ridge beams and as perlins. The original six round perlins were replaced with rough sawn totara perlins during the restoration.

The horizontal beams joining the top of the posts were replaced: the west and south beams are of macrocarpa, while the eastern beam is totara. The original roof collar ties are visible inside the hut.

The original full length round perlins were replaced with rough sawn totara perlins during the restoration. The two beams forming the central ridge were replaced, as one of the original ones had broken right off. In the restoration it was found that the roof has a complicated sheathing, and is built up first with slabs inside, malthoid sheathing on the slabs, full length perlins, then finally split Kaikawaka slabs in two lengths down each slope of the roof. The roof has an extra pitched section over the door.

The roof shakes were replaced: Noel Heath, who worked on the restoration, recalls cutting the inner set of slabs with a chainsaw. These were then laid under the set forming the top layer, which were hand-split kaikawaka. Some of the slabs have retained their bark and the timber has weathered since the restoration, making it difficult to tell the difference between old and new. The ridge is covered externally in corrugated iron running lengthways, replaced during the restoration.

The floor was originally of split kaikawaka slabs on beech floor joists; the brothers plugged up the gaps between the slabs with dirt. By 1996 the floor was badly deteriorated, particularly near the fireplace due to the effect of rainwater running off the hearth. This was exacerbated by the placement of the slabs sitting directly on the ground. The floor was replaced in the restoration with rough sawn totara slabs: the new one-inch thick slabs were cut using a circular saw. The slabs were nailed to runners/joists, which are of either treated pine or totara.

The chimney is of corrugated iron, some sheets bearing the trademarks of Staley and of Redcliffe. The two top sheets of iron were missing in 1996. For the restoration DoC sourced some that had the same brand marks on them as the other sheets. The two chimney corner posts were replaced with old silver pine telegraph poles from the Erua railway station. Where the chimney meets the wall, a piece of flashing was added to prevent water from getting inside: there was none there before. The fireplace has a brick hearth using dirt in place of mortar; there were no makers-marks on the two bricks inspected, but there were traces of concrete mortar suggesting that the bricks had been recycled from another structure. Also recycled is the steel plate at the back of the fireplace, which shows riveting down one edge: while flat, it has similarities with the boilers used on steam powered machinery. The fireplace, almost as wide as the hut, incorporates a horizontal rod for hanging cooking pots and mantelpiece created from a thick un-milled timber slab.

An alcove in the western wall accommodates a cast iron wood range: the fireplace surround of the stove had completely collapsed and the stove was open to the weather by 1994. When conservation work was undertaken the range's rectangular chimney pipe was beyond repair and a replacement could not be sourced, so no stovepipe hole was left when the alcove was repaired in 1996. Rather than using a pitched corrugated iron roof for this section as recommended by Chris Cochran, kaikawaka slabs were used. This may have been due to a lack of suitable corrugated iron, as the (later) Conservation Plan Review recommends looking for additional sheeting.

Old flour or chaff bags (jute sacking) were used to line the hut walls and ceiling, both as insulation and as another layer of waterproofing. One sack appears to read 'Primros[e] Flour', which was a brand produced in the USA at least from the beginning of the 19th Century. Malthoid was also used on some of the walls. Two sheets of sacking adjacent to the range on the western wall were replaced in the restoration.

Two small windows give light, one a crudely fixed piece of glass inserted in a hole in the south wall and one in the eastern wall, which had a fixed four-light sash. Chris Cochran recorded in 1994 that both windowpanes were smashed. In 1996 the windows had replacement old glass and split kaikawaka window frames inserted.

The only door opens out to the east. It is ledged and has no lock. Sacking covers any hinges, possibly to block drafts. The small bench seat outside the front door is of recent construction (post 1996).

Chattels include two beds, the one with the cast iron frame appears original but the other is much later in style and was not listed amongst the hut's furnishings by a 1977 visitor. At that time the only other furniture was a crudely built table (presumably the same table which was photographed under the window in November 2004) and totara bookshelves which have since gone, whereabouts unknown. The chopping block depicted in Chris Cochran's 1994 drawings has gone. There are a few old bottles in and around the hut. Some very recent materials were in the hut when we inspected it, including plastic mugs, a broom, newspapers, bedroll, and a plastic bag of basic supplies such as soap.

Notable Features

Chattels include the brass/iron bed, small table, and the cast iron range.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1930 - 1939

1996 - 1997

Construction Details

The bushmen's hut is a simple one-room gable-roof building, constructed primarily from kaikawaka slabs (harvested on site) and a frame of timber in the round with a corrugated iron chimney. The floor is constructed of wooden joists overlaid with wooden slabs.

Completion Date

11th February 2005

Report Written By

K. Mercer / L. Williams

Information Sources

Taumarunui Memory Bank

Taumarunui Memory Bank

Charles Bowley, Taumarunui Memory Bank Oral History No 22, 'Life in the Raurimu national Park.'; Charles Bowley, Taumarunui Memory Bank Oral History No 60, 'The characters of the sawmilling days in the Central King Country.'

Furner, 1996

Warren Furner, 'Kaikawaka Slab Hut: Tongariro Forest Park: Restoration stage one', Department of Conservation, February 1996.

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Chris Cochran, 'Kaikawaka Slab Hut: Tongariro Forest Park: conservation report', draft, July 1994.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office

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.