Red Deer Lodge

Nelson branch owns Red Deer Lodge located at St Arnaud, close to Lake Rotoiti and it is available for public hire. A full history can be read below.


The Lodge can accommodate 28 guests in 5 bunkrooms and has a spacious kitchen and communal lounge with an impressive riverstone fireplace. The facilities are well suited for training courses, youth groups or a base for tramping & hunting trips. It has been used by school groups, church groups, family reunions and the occasional wedding over the years.

Originally built by NZDA members in the mid 1960's with volunteer labour and donated materials, the Lodge is situated within Nelson Lakes National Park - virtually across the road from the park headquarters.

This area has always provided good hunting and some of New Zealand's great deerstalkers were actively involved with the Lodge construction, including Newton McConnochie, Bert Spiers, Max Curtis, Charlie Shuttleworth. Trophies taken by some of these notable hunters are displayed in the lounge

For more information feel free to contract the accommodation manager Jen 

If you are an NZDA member please include this in the comment box on the booking site.

Live Camera of Lake Rotoiti is found HERE


The Story of Red Deer Lodge

By D. Cummings (written 1965)

The story of Red Deer Lodge commenced in the year 1955 when the Nelson Branch of N.Z.D.A. first conceived the idea that to really perpetuate and give some solidity to the N.Z.D.A. movement, it would be both desirable and necessary to have a headquarters of their own. The form that this was to take has over the years been keenly debated both around the Committee table and the campfire, by committee man and member alike. This has all been to the good of the Association as it is only by keen debate stimulated by genuine interest that we can hope to formulate this future of our organisation. We have perhaps been fortunate in that we have always had a clear majority of opinion to follow, this was clearly eminent in 1960 when a referendum of whether to erect Club Rooms in Nelson or a Lodge at Lake Rotoiti was circulate to all members. The result was a clear cut majority in favour of Lodge at Lake Rotoiti.

The hard work was now to begin, but thanks to the wisdom of previous Committee men, an Annual Building Fund Raffle had been commenced in 1956, nine years previously. Without this foresight it is doubtful if we could have possibly commenced such an ambitious project. However, with approximately £1,400 in the Building Fund, a Branch Membership of 250 and above all, a particularly energetic Secretary and Building Committee, the position was not too bad.

Once the decision was made to erect a Lodge the Committee had to decide, firstly where to obtain a suitable site. This was far from easy, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Nelson, not only for the assistance he has been able to give, but also for the overall understanding of our problems.

For instance, it was soon obvious that the standard size, 1-acre section in the Settlement area would be of little use for a building such as was envisaged. It was at this point that an attractive site on National Park land was offered. This indeed solved many problems, there was ample space for parking, it was near good road access, the electric power lines ran close by. There was only one drawback, the local Inspector of Health had reservations about granting a permit for a building of this nature due to poor drainage.

This indeed was a severe setback, but to prove that good drainage could be obtained by going to a greater depth than the normal practice, the Building Committee, with the help of a small band of members, sank a shaft through the hard conglomerate formation to a depth of 14 feet where open loose strata was struck.

The problem had been solved and the necessary permit was granted.

The massive concrete foundations for the 2000 sq. ft. building were laid in April 1963, and the Lodge was at last under way.

An appeal was made to all members to assist either by way of labour or material. At the same time members of the Building Committee approached local businessmen and firms for donations of materials, and the overall result, equivalent to £600, was very heartening and showed that the organisation has many supporters outside its own ranks.

Labour was divided into three gangs all under the supervision of qualified tradesmen. In this respect our Branch is indeed fortunate as it has many skilled tradesmen within its members, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, stonemasons, plasterers to mention some of those who were called on to play an important part in the construction of the building.

Donations of timber from Murchison and Nelson, along with other material commenced to arrive on the site during the winter months of 1963 and the building roster was scheduled to commence on 1st September. This meant that with three gangs every gang had one weekend in three. It says much for the enthusiasm some members that they were able to complete a full attendance record for the complete project.

Work continued along steadily under the watchful eye of our Secretary, who had perhaps the most important duty of all, to see there was sufficient money in hand to meet all commitments.

It soon became obvious to Stan, that in spite of the substantial building fund and generous donations, we were going to be short of money to finish off and furnish the building. A decision was made to approach the Minister of Internal Affairs for a grant from the Golden Kiwi funds. Although the request was initially turned down, a grant of €500 was made on a second request. We are grateful for the assistance that Mr. S. Whitehead, M.P. for Nelson, was able to give in this matter.

It was exactly two years from the time the project was actually started until all constructional work was completed. However, there still remained much to be done, a set of Rules had to be drawn up, a standard of trophies suitable for exhibition both local and national had to be arrived at: space for exhibits had to be allocated and a host of other matters dealt with before the big day, the official opening of Red Deer Lodge could be finalised.

As our two local MP's had shown such an interest in both the Lodge and our organisation, it was decided to ask them both to officiate at the opening ceremony and for Mr. W. Rowling to officially open the Lodge.

It was most gratifying not only for all those who had worked so hard and been closely associated with the work to see this project bought to such a grand finish, but also to a large number of the public who gathered to witness the event in such a wonderful setting. They too, we are sure, felt with pride and pleasure that such a fine building had been erected in their district not only to assist in preserving a grand sport, but to foster that sport amongst its younger people.

After our President, Mr. Max Curtis, had welcomed our Official Guests and the large gathering present, he called on Mr.Newton McConchie, Founder of the Nelson Branch, Past National President and Present National Patron, to address the company.

It was indeed a proud moment in Newton's life and although he has been blessed with the good fortune and ability to look over and own many fine trophies, it is doubtful if the sport has ever given any man greater pleasure than that enjoyed by Newton at that moment. It was indeed a fitting reward for a grand sportsman.

National Executive was represented by Mr. Athel Hood, past National President.

Mr. Keith Arres, Chairman of the Nelson Lakes National Park and Commissioner of Crown Lands, Nelson, spoke on behalf of that body and expressed pleasure at the standard of the building and what a fine acquisition it was to the district. These speakers were followed by the two local members of Parliament, Mr. S. Whitehead and Mr. W. Rowling, who both made mention of the good work done by the organisation in fostering outdoor interests for the young people, search and rescue work, rifle safety, and above all the ability to organise a large number of hunters and people of like interests into a highly organised responsible body, whose aims and objects even if they did not meet with complete approval by all, were based on solid and considered thinking.

All speakers paid a tribute to the team effort required to produce such a fine building and commended the Branch on the standard set.

Before declaring the Lodge officially open, Mr. Rowling expressed great pleasure at having the opportunity and privilege of officiating at the ceremony, as he said that it was in this area that he shot his first deer and started his career as a school teacher. A number of his first pupils were among those present as members and members wives.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, afternoon tea was served in the large spacious trophy room. This room is already starting to take on an atmosphere of true outdoor interests and was suitably decorated for the occasion. Newton McConchie has donated a very fine collection of trophies, including magnificent Wapiti and Red Deer heads. Members kindly loaned a number of other species including Thar, Chamois and a number of native birds. It is hoped to eventually build up a very comprehensive museum, including trophies of N.Z. wildlife, Herbarium, Photographic section, Geological collection and native birds, of which a number have been promised from various collections already in existence. It is through this room that we hope to be able to show both members and the public the wide range of interests that can be derived and the pubic the wide range of interests from outdoor recreation and also how they are closely allied te our sport. It is only by becoming interested in, and studying al aspects of what one may see in a day's tramp, that we can hopt to become proficient deer stalkers, enjoying in full measure all that the sport has to offer.

A number of people have asked such questions as, "What's it for"? 'Will it pay"? etc. It has never been the intention of this Association to judge the worthiness or otherwise of this venture by its commercial value or return. Likewise its success will not be judged by the number of animals that can be stalked in its immediate vicinity.

In building Red Deer Lodge, Nelson Deerstalkers hope not only to put something back into a sport that has given so much pleasure to its older members, but through it try to preserve a sport that we hope will provide similar enjoyment not only to our younger members of today, but for all who will follow in the future. We feel that Red Deer Lodge depicts many of the outstanding aspects of our organisation and sport. The massive concrete foundations denote the solidness on which our organisation was founded. The museum shows the wide diversity of interests. The majestic stonework fireplace with its many built-in features shows all the ruggedness associated with stalking. Last, but by no means least, the three comfortable family rooms which cater for the children and women folk, clearly portrays, not only the great assistance and interest shown by members' wives and families, but that it is also a sport, that can be and is, enjoyed by all.

Nelson Branch is proud of Red Deer Lodge and invite all tonshare with them the many pleasures derived from it.


NEW ZEALAND WILD LIFE - ISSUE 12 - SPRING 1965 pages 41-44