Field Hut Builder Honoured at Hut’s 80th Birthday
12 November 2004
Field Hut in the Tararua Forest Park, above Otaki Forks, is Aotearoa’s oldest club built hut still operating. The Tararua Tramping Club owns the hut and operates it in a partnership with the Department of Conservation, in the Back Country Huts(approve sites) system.
The Club hosted the hut’s 80th birthday party onsite, on November 6th 2004 (see photo). There were speeches, a banner, sausage sizzle and a birthday cake, all enjoyed by sixty visitors. Also unveiled, by DOC Director General Hugh Logan, was an additional panel in the hut, celebrating the hut’s builder, legendary bushman Joe Gibbs?.
The hut was built for the Club by Joe in 1924, for 460 pounds. The money came from a donation by noted Kāpiti personality Willie Field MP, a founder of the Club, and a government grant. Joe pit sawed the framing timber from trees cut round the hut, to save packing it in. A feature of the hut is its compact design and sleeping loft. The hut, near the bushline, above Otaki Forks, opened up the now famous Southern Crossing track to Kaitoke.
Joe Gibbs was born in 1879 near Murchison, and grew up with a love of the wild developed in the surrounding wilderness. A horseman and accurate shot, he served in the Boer War, and worked for a time in western North America. Returning to Aotearoa he worked on the Wellington wharves, and took up tramping. As well as building Field, he also enlarged the first Alpha hut, built Kime Hut, and also the first Taurehenikau Hut where he often stayed in retirement. And he cut the Marchant track, and the track from Cone to Totara Flats. He was a great bushman, and also a noted deerstalker. Joe died in 1969, but as the speakers reminded us, was fondly remembered for his skills by trampers and deerstalkers who knew him, alike.
Field is now recognised by DOC as an historic hut. It has had two big overhauls, the first by the Club in 1982, and the second in 2003, as part of DOC’s deferred maintenance. It now sports a bright new paint scheme, and is in good shape for at least another 20 years.