Orange Hut, in the Akatarawa Forest Park. Owned by the regional council. Used to have a reputation for being a dump - and has been burnt down twice in the last 10 years. 4WD access has now been restricted to club trips only - so hopefully that's improved things. The hut was certainly tidy when I visited. Mainly an attraction for mountain bikers rather than trampers. There's good access from Paraparaumu, Paekakariki, Battle Hill, Upper Hutt and the Akatarawa Road. Most give a 10-15km ride in on reasonable gravel tracks. Mountain-bike access is unrestricted - but trail-bikes require a permit. The roofed deck in the photo is actually the previous hut - 2 walls intact, with fireplace and table. A pleasant outdoor area, open on two sides. The new hut is conspicuously fireproof: concrete floor, block walls, metal bunks. There's a woodburner inside as well as on the deck - there are even comfortable mattresses and a flush toilet. Luxury? Well almost.
geeves The roofed deck is not the original hut. It was built at the same time as the second hut and the orange chairs there still show the ferocity of the fire that destroyed that hut. There is no doubt that fire was deliberate and many rumours point to certain culprits but no evidence.
The original hut was a tin on manuka pole affair with a couple of wire netting bunks in the middle of the current car park. It was found when demolished that it had been built over a spring. The second hut was paid for by many recreational groups in Wellington via ARAC and lasted 2 years before a mishap with a lot of petrol. The Council had insured this hut so the current hut was built with insurance money but a large portion of the labour to build this hut which is on the foundation of the second hut was supplied by the Tararua 4wd club.
As you say 4wd access is very controlled and has been since well before the demise of the first hut. Mountain bikes and walkers have open access and trail bikes need an annual permit. The inside will be painted one day to match the outside.
15 May 2012