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Toilets as pretty as a picture

Posted on 26 April 2013
closing to completion


It’s not often you’d look forward to the experience of using a backcountry toilet. However, a novel approach to finishing new visitor facilities in the Ruahine ranges will have people wanting to make the trip especially to check them out.

Inspired by seeing public toilets painted with murals, Andrew Mercer of DOC thought he could bring a similar concept to the new outbuildings at Rangiwahia Hut, using paint from DOC’s partnership with Dulux.

“I wanted the new toilet and woodshed to compliment the landscape and to tell a conservation story, and at the same time add another element to the visitor experience, something that might encourage people come up especially to see,” he said.

“This is a very special location for its breathtaking views on to the Ruahine range and active bird life. And the murals reinforce these aspects.”

A conversation with Mangaweka artist Julie Oliver sparked the project off. She jumped at the opportunity, saying it was just the challenge she needed to give herself a break from her usual style of painting fine detail in oils.

And the results are simply breath taking.

Ruahine - repaint 2


The buildings emerge out of the natural landscape, compliment the backdrop of the ranges and sky, and feature New Zealand native birds typical of the location.

“It was so gratifying to be up there immersed in the landscape, listening to the birds and painting it all at the same time,” said Julie.

Using six signature shades from Dulux Colours of New Zealand range, she painted the mural with brush and sponge to blend the colours.

Faced with many challenges – including painting lines onto corrugated iron, keeping on her feet with uneven ground around the buildings and, of course, the weather conditions typical of a changeable mountain environment such as wind, rain, sun, ice and fog – Julie completed the two buildings in four days, with help from her partner Tim,

Dulux supplied the paint at no cost as part of a three year ‘Protecting Our Place’ partnership with DOC that will see recreation and historic assets all around the country painted and, as in this case, upgraded for public’s enjoyment.

Rangiwahia Hut sits just above the tree line, at 1320m altitude, on the western side of the Ruahine Ranges. Challenging at the start, due to a short detour for track realignment work which will be completed by July this year, trampers then come out to the picturesque arched wooden bridge crossing a deep ravine of the Mangahuia Stream. A slightly steeper grade from here, the track heads up through smaller shrub species past a pretty waterfall to reach Rangiwahia Hut.

Photos: Julie Oliver