'Lovely' place keeps them coming back

At Labour Weekend, management of the Queenstown Lakes District Council's four main holiday parks was taken over by a newly formed private company, Council Camps Revitalised Ltd.

This came after the council amended its policy so it could no longer run camping grounds which competed with the private sector or which required significant subsidies from ratepayers. Queenstown reporter Christina McDonald visits the Arrowtown Holiday Park.

Most of the caravans and tents at the Arrowtown Holiday Park are equipped with appliances such as fridges and microwaves, which is not surprising considering some holiday-makers have spent 40 years perfecting their home away from home here.

Many of the caravans parked at the holiday park belong to Invercargill residents, who make Arrowtown their yearly summer holiday destination, along with visiting on public holidays.

And in the days around New Year's Eve, in particular, the camping ground comes to life.

Heather Hamilton, of Invercargill, said she had been holidaying at the park for over 40 years, while camping neighbour and friend Jenny McKay estimated she also had holidayed there for the same number of years.

''It's just a lovely, relaxing place,'' Ms McKay mused, Ms Hamilton adding ''the other campers are nice - there's always someone different''.

Park manager Zach Johnston, who has been in the job for nine weeks but has similar experience in the North Island, said about 60 caravans were parked at the camping ground year round, their owners, who were mostly families, visiting for about 50-60 days a year.

The park is not far from Arrowtown's centre and next door is a rugby field - which used to be within the camp's boundary before 2007. Gaynor and Jimmy O'Sullivan, of Invercargill, have been coming to the holiday park for 20 years.

Part of the attraction was only having to travel two and a-half hours and ''most of time'' you could guarantee fine weather, Mrs O'Sullivan said.

They enjoyed meeting the variety of people who came from near and far for a first visit.

''The camp seems to have just blossomed,'' Mrs O'Sullivan said.

''You meet people from the North Island and overseas and they come and join you and have a drink and they seem like friends by the time you leave.''

They had noticed many new faces, especially families with young children.

The rugby field is commandeered as the ''youth zone'' or ''bullring'' for the New Year period.

Mr Johnston said many of the campers with children staying in the bullring had stayed there themselves in days gone by.

''For me, this is a family camp - it thrives on stored caravans and families.

''Most of [the older members of] those families were in the youth zone when they were young.''

On New Year's Eve Mr Johnston was on barbecue duty, cooking sausages for a gathering of families.

Buses ferried New Year's Eve revellers from the holiday park into central Queenstown and ''it's good to have a big feed for the last busload'', Mr Johnston said.

Campers in the main camp site talk of the bullring occupants always being ''very nice'' and a source of entertainment.

Mr Johnston added that some of the parents would ''trawl through there in the morning to pick up their kids'', before heading home.

Arrowtown Holiday Park
- Borders Jack Reid Park in Arrowtown.
- Minutes from the town centre and with a backdrop of mountains. Old gold mining locations nearby.
- Redeveloped and reopened in 2007 with new facilities.
- Not just for caravans, the park's accommodation includes tourist flats, tent sites, studio flats and a lodge, prices ranging between $50-$150 a night.