Guests to test upgrade work

 Glendhu Bay Lakeside Holiday Park managers Julie and Gavin Gray have been making last-minute preparations at the camp for the annual influx of summer guests, including carrying out final inspections of a new $1.76 million wastewater system which has just been completed in time for the busy period.  Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Glendhu Bay Lakeside Holiday Park managers Julie and Gavin Gray have been making last-minute preparations at the camp for the annual influx of summer guests, including carrying out final inspections of a new $1.76 million wastewater system which has just been completed in time for the busy period. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.

The new $1.76 million wastewater system at Glendhu Bay Lakeside Holiday Park will be put to the test on Boxing Day as about 300 groups of holidaymakers arrive.

The final inspection of the system was carried out earlier this week and camp managers Gavin and Julie Gray are confident it will prove its worth over the forthcoming busy period.

The upgrade, which has taken about two and a-half months to complete, provides the camping ground with its own on-site wastewater treatment system. Previously, trucks came in to pump out the park's holding tanks.

Mrs Gray said the wastewater system had been in "dire need" of an upgrade, as were other camp facilities such as the shower and toilet blocks, which were next on the list.

"It's a redevelopment basically of the whole park and this [wastewater system] is where we start, the underground and come up," Mrs Gray said.

The wastewater upgrade has meant the loss of 30 camping sites this holiday period while new grass grows. Most of those sites were typically rented to younger groups for New Year and about 60% of those had to be turned away, so it was likely the camping ground would be a "lot quieter" this year, Mrs Gray said.

Although "it's not always the younger ones that cause trouble", added Mr Gray, who doubles as security officer during the holiday period.

The camping ground will be busy through until early February, with three weekends booked to full capacity of between 1500 and 2000 people. About 90% of summer guests were "return customers" who came back year after year to the same site, many handing their annual bookings down through the generations.

During winter, guest numbers drop to below 50 - mostly passing tourists or skifield workers.

This is the second year the Grays have managed the camping ground. They were assistant managers for two years before that alongside owners Herbie and Chris Illingworth, who ran the camp for 18 years before their lease expired and the Queenstown Lakes District Council - which funded the wastewater upgrade - took over last year.

"It's certainly a lifestyle choice," Mrs Gray said.

"It gets a little bit isolated and lonely over the winter, it really does ... and then over the summer we're extremely busy."

While people come from far and wide to experience a New Zealand summer at Glendhu Bay, during the last two weeks of the school holidays 70% of campers were from Wanaka.

"Because they're just down the road I suppose, and it's the last bit of family time they're going to have for the year."

Last-minute preparations before the Boxing Day influx have included setting up the camp shop, organising security and inducting staff - boosted from 13 to 17 this summer to relieve pressure on the Grays.

For Otago University student Pip Oliver, a camp staff member for three consecutive summers, working for part of the day and water-skiing the rest is a dream come true.

"I get a holiday and I get paid for it as well," she said.

"And I enjoy the people. It's a very social job."

Although the Grays rarely leave the camping ground, except for the occasional trip into Wanaka, they are already planning a well-earned trip to Fiji after the holiday crowds have left the camp.

In the meantime, the focus is on hosting the thousands of people who call Glendhu Bay home each summer.

"We will be flat out but ... we're really looking forward to it," Mrs Gray said.

"It's once a year that we catch up on everybody. It's a great atmosphere."

lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz