Landsborough Rangers Hut is a relic of early government conservation efforts and the golden age of deer culling in the south. Workers who were building vital roads in the South Island used isolated backcountry buildings like Landsborough Rangers Hut for accommodation.
The historic hut is connected to legendary figures from the early deer culling days, such as Bert Barra and Frank Erceg – dubbed the “greatest hunter of them all”.
The area is filled with the daily objects of the men who lived there. Landsborough Rangers Hut is particularly significant as visitors can actually walk inside and face the graffiti dating back to the depression era, with the deer cullers' annual tallies recorded beside their names.
The historic hut sits at the north-eastern end of the Landsborough River Flats, between Quarry Creek and Parasite Creek. Visitors can follow SH6 for 95km north of Wanaka. From here, there is a rough road leading from Pleasant Flat down the true right of the Haast River up to Landsborough Rangers Hut. Due to the road’s condition, only high ground clearance 4WD vehicles are advised.
Deer numbers boom
Deer were introduced to Landsborough in the 1850s and the population quickly boomed. The Welsh millionaire Godfrey Williams, one of many hunters drawn to the site, donated money for the Rangers Hut to be built. This was carried out in 1928 by Con Hodgkinson and Mark Te Koiti. In the 1930s, workers building the Haast to Makarora Road used the Rangers Hut as accommodation.
The campaign begins
In the 1933/34 summer season, the South Westland government deer culling programme began. Hunters battled harsh weather, difficult terrain, and minimal equipment to cull some of the highest numbers of deer in New Zealand history. In 1940, two tent frame huts were added to the deteriorating Rangers Hut to support the monumental effort.
A change in pace
The area next to Landsborough Rangers Hut was levelled into an air strip. The first plane landed on 1 January 1947 and supplies were routinely dropped into the Hut. By 1956, 25 culling, farming, and accommodation huts had been built in Landsborough, but they were slowly abandoned as the region was developed and deer numbers dropped. Now, only the Landsborough Rangers Hut remains.