This summer, the Lake Hawea Holiday Park has been full of
people escaping Christchurch earthquakes and liquefaction.
Although the attractions of the 30-year-old camp site are not
a secret to many Cantabrians who regularly visit, this year
several newbies have made their way there to escape the
shakes that have been haunting them since September 2010.
Gina McGrosky, of Park View School, and her parents Chuck
McGrosky and Heather Wright were among them.
They decided to come to Lake Hawea because they are friends
of Lorraine and Mike King, who retired from their job
managing Mt Albert Station in October 2010 and took charge at
the Lake Hawea Holiday Park soon afterwards.
The only thing reminding the Wright-McGrosky family of home
was that the tent was not level. Neither is their blue
stickered house, which has to undergo major structural
Gina was delighted to be staying for four nights because
after just one night she was already in love with the camp.
The playground and two chubby 3-month-old pet lambs Patrick
and Blossom (both "boy sheep") were some of the best things,
"Lorraine makes the milk powder up and we put teats on the
bottles and we go feed the lambs," she said.
The only family member to stay at home in Christchurch is
Fergus, Gina's pet West Highland terrier.
He was having New Year's Eve with Gina's cousins because dogs
are not allowed in the Lake Hawea Holiday Park.
When Mr and Mrs King first moved into the camp, they lived in
In August this year, the camp leaseholders, Richard and Sarah
Burdon, purchased an old bach from 126 Lismore St, Wanaka,
and relocated it to the camp.
It has been renovated and extended and the Kings now live in
a comfortable cottage with a grand view of camp sites laid
The 1960s-vintage building has a history of relocation. It
was originally from Christchurch and spent some time in
Fairlie before moving to Lismore St.
"I call it Kings Castle because I sit here with my binoculars
and watch people come in," Mr King said.
However, this time of year Mr King does not have much time to
sit and survey his domain.
The Lake Hawea Holiday Park has the capacity for many
hundreds and at least 300 campers this New Year's Eve were
aged between 18-22.
Last summer, Mr King unceremoniously ejected a group of
teenagers for behaviour reasons and he was delighted not to
have to repeat the performance this year.
It is just a short walk down a grassy slope from "Kings'
Castle" to the concrete block office block, next to a dump
station and laundry with cheerful flowers painted in a large
mural across one side.
Both buildings have vivid red hollyhocks growing up the
Many varieties of mature native and exotic trees planted over
the years by the Cotters now grace the camp ground, providing
sheltered pockets for tents and caravans.
Mr and Mrs King say they work hard to help campers get the
spot they want.
All tenters have a choice, but the key is to book early for
the next year, Mr King said.
"All some of them do is nothing, absolutely nothing. You
think why, when there is biking, tramping, swimming. But some
people don't want to do that because all year long, they've
had to work, work work. So they don't want to do anything.
And there is nothing wrong with that," Mrs King said.
"It is a lovely place. And it is a great way to meet new
people," Mr King said.
By the administration block is a row of concrete-block
tourist flats, occupied by a regular group of holiday-makers:
Robert and Lori Rusbatch, of Ashburton, Ian Rattray, of
Hinds, and Graeme Smith, of Waimate.
They have met every year for 10 years for fishing, yarning
They love that the camp is the sort of place where you can
lose your car keys and someone will hand them in to the
managers, they said.
"We've had grandchildren here and it is safe. It is friendly
and the people who run it are helpful," Mrs Rusbatch said.
But sadly, the Christchurch earthquakes meant that the
Rusbatch's grandchildren could not be with them this year, as
they have moved with their parents to Australia to escape the
shakes and make a new start.
During the last days of 2011, the Rusbatchs were still having
fun and enjoying "people watching" while waiting for the wind
to drop so they could go fishing.
"The silliest thing we've brought is the jet-boat. It is
always windy," Mr Rusbatch said.
The most practical item they had was the electric frypan, Mrs
"We cook all our meat in it. And I'm waiting for the fish to
cook in it."
Not all camp newbies are Cantabrians, with many from Otago
also discovering the charm of Lake Hawea for the first time.
Among them were Balclutha women Annie Dickie (21), a sales
assistant, and her friends Connie Waddingham (20) and Holly
Heaps (20), who are both employed at a meat works.
The women were tenting and enjoying the "awesome" atmosphere
so much that, although they had barely started this holiday,
they were already planning their next.
"Heaps of people from Clutha always come up so we thought we
would do something different and come too," Holly said.
As they did the rounds of the camp meeting other people,
they'd also noted "heaps from Christchurch". The women
planned to check the entertainment at the Lake Hawea Hotel
and in Wanaka, swim in the lake and stay five nights.
The most practical item they had brought was an "extra comfy
air bed" and the silliest thing was a hair straightener.
But the best thing to take camping were friends: "Having your
friends, you always have a good time," Annie said.
Lake Hawea Holiday Park
Established: 1971 by Jim and Margie Cotter.
Where: Access from State Highway 6, about 200m
northwest of the Hawea dam, five minutes walk from Lake Hawea
Area: 2.8ha on a total public reserve of 14.88ha.
Lease expires 2037.
Leaseholders: Richard and Sarah Burdon took over from
the Cotter family in 2009.
Managers: Mike and Lorraine King appointed 2010.