At Labour Weekend, management of the Queenstown Lakes
District Council holiday parks was taken over by a newly
formed private company called Council Camps Revitalised Ltd.
The company consists of two couples with long histories in
the camping ground business and full of ideas about how to
improve the holiday experience of those who choose to camp.
On Boxing Day, Mark Price took the pulse of one of the camps
- the Wanaka Lake View Holiday Park - as it began to fill up
for New Year.
I arrive at the Wanaka Lake View Holiday Park, near the
centre of Wanaka, on Boxing Day.
It is expected to be one of the park's busiest ''check-in''
days of the year.
But, duty first. The camp management points out the honesty
box is all out of the Otago Daily Times, and I am
tasked with finding more.
Across from the office a man is tossing bags of dirty sheets
and pillowcases from one vehicle to another.
This is assistant manager Harry Kegel who is eight years into
a ''change of lifestyle''.
He spent 27 years in the Dutch police force before deciding
to come to New Zealand to get involved in the hospitality
As well as laundry duties, he has an afternoon of rubbish
collection, cleaning and maintenance to look forward to. And
he's loving it.
''I'm still working with people, but at the positive end
rather than the negative end,'' he says.
We do some calculations and figure the camp provides about
120 beds in its lodge, holiday flats and cabins.
That makes it probably the second biggest accommodation
provider in Wanaka and, as Mr Kegel points out, it certainly
keeps the local laundry busy.
Mitchie Maluschnig (16) of Hawea Flat and Rick Sanders, of
Wanaka, are two of the park's cleaners.
Working their way down a line of 16 cabins, they have no time
to stand around talking about it.
What's the best part of the job?
''Interacting with everyone,'' says Mitchie, humping a large
vacuum cleaner into a cabin.
What's the worst part?
''Being busy over New Year,'' he says as he disappears
Nearby, Wendy and Rob Taylor, of Mosgiel, are also busy -
putting up their new tent.
But apart from a perfectly civil discussion about which way
round to have the opening, there are no stereotypical
tent-erection arguments going on.
These seasoned campers have a trailer-load of bikes, chilly
bins and folding chairs.
On centre stage is a large gas barbecue.
They estimate they will be sitting outside, relaxing with a
drink in their hands in about two hours.
The Taylors have been camping in the same spot, more or less,
for the past 12 years.
What brings them back is the group of friends they camp with
and the location of the park.
''It's just a nice area,'' Mrs Taylor says.
''The facilities are good, it's handy to town, everything's
within walking distance.''
Other members of the group have a history stretching back
more than 30 years, with 20 years at the same sites.
Alex Wilson, of Dunedin, is one of them and says each year
they simply rebook.
''It's very nice, very laid back. There are bike rides,
boating, good walks. Good climate.''
He also likes the park's location.
''You can walk into town, have a beer, not worry about
driving, leave your car here, have a few drinks. That's one
of the benefits of being so central.''
Although the sky is grey, the roses around the park's booking
office look a little brighter in the afternoon and there is
the hint of a shadow on the grass.
Into the honesty box outside the office go a few
ODT's, while a sandfly or three hunt ankles for lunch.
Jenny and Mattias Lindberg and baby Vidar are from Sweden.
The parents are quite familiar with biting bugs.
Thanks to Vidar, they have 420 government-funded paid
parental leave days to use - so what better than a six-week
tour of New Zealand during the northern winter.
Despite wet days and a baby, living out of a car and a small
tent has not presented any major issues.
As Mrs Lindberg points out, an active baby has nothing to
fall off, living in a tent.
They see no major difference between New Zealand and Swedish
camping grounds, although there are more opportunities for
freedom camping at home.
When their next-door-neighbour, Pam Grant, of Nelson, first
came to the park, she also camped in a small tent.
That was in 1956, before campers had even hot water available
Now Mrs Grant is in a fully-equipped motel unit with her
three sons, her daughter and seven grandchildren in residence
Her late husband John was an enthusiastic ''boatie'', and
easy access to the lake is still one of the attractions of
the park for the family.
''The beach is right there. The town's right there.
Everything's so handy, you could walk.
''It was great when the kids were small. We would just walk
from here across to the beach.''
But, she says, it is not so much the lake or convenience that
brings her back to the park.
It is family.
The same goes for Laureen Buchanan and Brian (Griff) Griffin,
Their boys, Phoenix and Jack are 7 and 3 respectively - about
the age their parents were when they were first brought to
the Wanaka park.
Mrs Buchanan says in the past 45 years she has never missed a
holiday at the park.
Mr Griffin: ''It's the place to be. The weather's usually
nice, and the water's really nice. It's a good place for the
The slide and trampoline and swings help stop their children
getting bored, he says.
Earlier in the day, assistant manager Harry Kegel emphasised
the importance of such facilities by saying the park needed
to keep the children happy if it was to keep the adults
I notice he's returned with the truckload of clean laundry
and Mr Kegel agrees, I have now seen the full washing cycle
start to finish.
Popping in and out of the camp throughout the day has
revealed even a busy day looks extremely laid back.
I had expected a queue of cars and caravans and boats and
trailers at the gate.
But there was no queue.
I had expected at least a touch of chaos in the office.
But there was not a hint.
New manager Agerta (Aggie) Hofsteenge troubleshoots when
there are issues with campers, many of whom, she
acknowledges, have a far longer history with the park than
During the morning, she has resolved some ''confusion'' over
a corner site by allowing the campers to ''sort it out
''If they say: 'That's how we do it', and we're OK with that,
we let them do it. That's sort of how it works. And if we are
not OK with it, we suggest a better way.''
She and husband Rudolf Sanders have high hopes for the park,
reflected in the name of their management company: Council
Camps Revitalised Ltd.
The campers encountered by the ODT on Boxing Day
seemed to be fairly self-sufficient - bringing their own
family and friends, their own camping hardware and software.
There is no doubt plenty of revitalisation can be done - but
campers seemed quite relaxed and content with their piece of
grass and an occasional hint of blue sky.
Of course, they also quite like hot water in the taps and an
ODT in the honesty box.