Rod Donald Hut Opening Celebrations

A perfectly still and sunny day marked the official opening of the Rod Donald Hut on Saturday the 7th November. It was ten years to the day that Rod Donald’s life was cut tragically short and his father David, wife Nicola Shirlaw and daughters Zoe, Holly and Emma were all in attendance to commemorate the passionate environmentalist and Green Party MP that the hut is named for, and to celebrate the Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust’s work in purchasing and fitting out the hut for public use.

heading to hut

Walkers heading down to the Rod Donald Hut (Photo by Tania Seward)

Over a hundred trampers, neighbouring landowners, tangata whenua, Rod Donald Trustees and other interested parties attended the opening with the majority of them taking the opportunity to walk in from the Port Levy Saddle over Waipuna Saddle.
James Robinsontapu lifitng

Kaumatua James Robinson of rūnanga Wairewa leading the tapu-lifting and blessing of the hut (Photo by Tania Seward)

Little River kaumatua James Robinson is perfectly placed to be a kaitiaki of the whenua (land) and hut, as his house is in the valley above which the Rod Donald Hut sits. James opened the proceedings with a tapu lifting ceremony and blessing of the hut. Guests then had their first opportunity to view the interior of the hut, before being refreshed with food and cold drinks.


Iaean Cranwell of rūnanga Wairewa (Photo by Tania Seward)

Iaean Cranwell of rūnanga Wairewa opened the speeches with a powerful whaikōrero, which acknowledged the tūpuna that have helped shape this special place, or “the centre of the universe” in Iaean’s words, in which the hut resides. The hut is flanked by Te Upoko o Tahumatā and Tahu Ahi, two important maunga (mountains) to the mana whenua, and overlooks Te Roto o Wairewa (Lake Forsyth), a significant mahinga kai and taonga.


Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust Chair Simon Mortlock (photo of by Tania Seward)

The Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust’s Chair, Simon Mortlock, described the hut’s role facilitating Summit Walkway track to become an introductory tramping track for families and young people from Christchurch, and the partnerships with DOC, private landowners and Banks Peninsula tangata whenua, who have made the development of this track network possible.


Alice Shanks of the QEII Trust (photo by Tania Seward)

Alice Shanks from the QEII National Trust provided a brief history of the hut property, which is entirely protected by a QEII covenant for the purpose of native bush restoration and acknowledged the work of the previous landowners Rodney Chambers and Paul and Ruth Maurice who put this protection onto the land in perpetuity.

Laura King

Laura King of the Federated Mountain Clubs (photo by Tania Seward)

Reminiscing about her family’s many tramping trips when she was young, Laura King from the Federated Mountain Clubs had many people smiling in recognition when she said “tramping as children taught my brother and I that a little bit of suffering is ok, and that while tramping trips don’t always go according to plan this develops stoicism and resilience. Our parents taught us a lot through these tramping experiences and I hope this hut provides many first tramping experiences for young families from Christchurch”.

Hugh Wilson

Hinewai Reserve’s manager Hugh Wilson (photo by Tania Seward)

Hinewai Reserve’s Hugh Wilson also reminisced about his early tramping experiences on the Banks Peninsula, when as a child he caught the train to Lyttelton, then the ferry to Diamond Harbour, before walking up into the hills to stay at the Tom Cundell hut. Hugh’s childhood experiences symbolise the Trust’s hope that children who follow in his footsteps experiencing the incredibly beautiful environment of the Banks Peninsula on tramping expeditions with their families will become environmental stewards of the future.


Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust’s manager Suky Thompson thanking all the people who have been part of the hut’s establishment, particularly builder David Brailsford and Suky’s own  family who have supported the project with many hours of voluntary labour (photo by Tania Seward)


Rod Donald’s father David Donald cuts the ribbon to officially open the hut, and thanks guests for being here today photo by Hollie Hollander)

 DAvid DOnald

David Donald thanks guests for being at the Rod Donald Hut Opening (photo by Tania Seward)

Donald family _all

Rod Donald’s family from L to R: Nicola Shirlaw, Zoe, Emma, David and Holly (photo by Tania Seward)


Tamariki kaiawhina (helpers). From L to R: Cam Aitken, Matakaea Tikao, Amiria Tikao, Otis Swallow, Josie Webb, Louis Swallow, William and Coen Webb and (in front) Aya Patrick (photo by Sarah Mankelow)


Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust trustee Brian Patrick relaxes with his daughter EimiBrain Patrick



After the hut’s opening ceremony a group of tamariki and adults from Little River walked to the hut to experience, for many of them, their first overnight tramp.


Tautoko waiata after Iaean Cranwell’s whaikōrero