Kiwi huts: beloved and now uncovered

New Zealanders love their huts, and they love the name for them: less than monosyllabic in our dialect, it leaps off the glottus so fast that no time is wasted and we can get down to real business, like lighting the fire and getting the tea on.

Untold Stories From Back-Country New Zealand

Mark Pickering
Canterbury University Press, $49.95, pbk

Ever since the first humans to arrive on these shores spread a few fronds over a frame of branches (no doubt while their kids were stretching a blanket over a couple of dining chairs), huts have paraphrased and informed our vernacular building styles.

Our cribs are just big huts, and maybe even our enthusiasm for state housing was just another bout of hut-building.

Self-confessed hut geek Mark Pickering ("I've been to 1170 of them") has chosen 15 representative huts from around the back country, describing the personalities involved in their construction in glowing detail.

The huts are placed in historical context. This makes the book a worthwhile chronicle of rural New Zealand even for the non-hutologist.

The book is thoroughly illustrated, with current and historical photographs, and has a fairly comprehensive index.

Pickering wanders off his 15-hut prescription quite often and describes strings of huts on the way, as it were, to the hut he really wants to tell the reader about.

As tenure review of high-country grazing runs places new lands into the conservation estate, many hitherto unknown huts, with colourful pasts, are coming within public access.

Trampers will find the book a good source of different-themed tracks from the standard Great Walks fare.

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