Removal of Te Urewera huts sparks outrage from locals

More than a dozen backcountry huts in the Te Urewera forest have been dismantled and 48 will be destroyed by December. 

It's part of local iwi Tūhoe's plan to get rid of old huts at the former national park, claiming they're past their expiry date. 

The move has sparked anger from some Tūhoe locals like Paki Nikora.

"The lack of consultation has been terrible," Nikora told Newshub.

Nikora is one of 8000 people who've signed a petition calling for it to stop. He's been using the huts since the 1960s for hunting and tramping and said there's been no proper communication with the community on the matter.

"These huts were put in by the Department of Conservation (DoC) and the way we see it, it's all owned by the public of New Zealand," Nikora said.

So far 15 huts have been dismantled with another 33 set to be destroyed by December. 

It's part of the Tūhoe governance entity Te Uru Taumatua's plan to remove the old huts.

"A lot of them are leaking, rat-infested and they are hardly visited some of them," Tūhoe chief negotiator Tāmati Kruger said.

Kruger said new accommodation will be developed and draw inspiration from an eco-village developed by Tūhoe. 

But he couldn't say exactly when and how many new structures would be built and what it would cost to stay there. 

"We are redesigning Te Urewera, we are not copying what DoC has done over the last 60 years. This is no longer a national park," Kruger said.

The Federated Mountains Club has members that often visit Te Urewera. 

President Robin McNeill is excited about Tūhoe's plan for the area but has slammed DoC for its lack of communication.

"We would've liked to have been more informed. The Department of Conservation could've kept us in the loop," McNeil said.

In a statement, DoC said it fully supports the vision for Te Urewera's future, and that since 2018 DoC has only played a supporting role in the management of Te Urewera. 

Those wanting to visit Te Urewera are being urged to take along their own shelter as work continues to clear all 48 huts by the end of the year.