Sleeping with the past? Geographies of recreational ‘tramping’ huts in New Zealand
Robin Kearns, School of Environment , The University of Auckland.
'Tramping' huts have a firm place in New Zealand’s wilderness landscape.
This seminar reviews the current status of the huts administered by the Department of Conservation and considers the tensions between the imperatives of heritage preservation and visitor accommodation. With budget cutbacks and safety concerns, the spectre of hut removal is a concern for many hikers (locally known as ‘trampers’) with one response being community efforts at preservation. I draw on participant observation, hut book entries and a 2012 on-line survey to address two questions: what do trampers value about huts with historical heritage values; and how do users feel about their replacement with ‘state-of the-art’ back-country accommodation? Drawing on ideas of memory from cultural geography I conclude that older huts offer hardy visitors a more authentic backcountry experience through the ‘presence of absences’ and can also provide a valued experience of ‘sleeping with the past’.