Camping revival, sunny days bring in the crowds

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 06:49 25/02/2013
Marilyn Heazlewood
KAY BLUNDELL/Fairfax NZ
PEAK SEASON: Marilyn Heazlewood has experienced a bumper summer holiday period as holiday-makers flock to the seaside park.

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A popular holiday destination for three generations of Wellingtonians, Paekakariki Holiday Park has experienced a bumper summer season after a five-year makeover.

Marilyn Heazlewood took over as manager of the park about five and half years ago and she and partner Ashley Solomon threw themselves into a huge clean-up and renovation programme and worked hard to foster a family-friendly atmosphere.

"When we got here it was not making much money, was a bit rundown. We had a huge job getting it up to scratch and turning it around," Heazlewood said.

With the cabins and lodge refurbished, the camp now turns over more than $400,000 a year and a resurgence in camping culture had contributed to a bumper summer, helped by beautiful weather, she said.

Situated at the entrance of Queen Elizabeth Park, retro and new caravans are nestled among neatly clipped hedges on the gentle rolling hillocks of the 4.5 hectare park.

US marines camped on the site before the holiday park was established in 1956 and the rich history is recalled in photographs at the front entrance.

The holiday park is now owned by iwi corporation Te Runanga O Toa Rangitira, trading as Ngati Toa Ltd.

Heazlewood worked as relief manager at the camp for about 10 years before becoming manager.

With 180 power/tent sites, 9 cabins, 16 sites for holidaymakers with dogs and a 30-bed lodge, visitor numbers can swell to around 800 over the summer holiday period, which prompted Heazlewood a few years ago to introduce some new rules.

"We do not do the teenage yahoo thing or let people drink and party all night. A few beers or glasses of wine are fine, we want a family atmosphere," she said.

A warm dry summer had seen holiday-makers flock to the park over Christmas/New Year.

"We have been absolutely chocker," she said.

Most of the holiday-makers were families with children and the lodge was popular with church and school groups.

She was pleased they did not have a swimming pool. "It is great to see families walking over the grass together to the sea."

Heazlewood's expansion plans for the business include moving a prefab from Whitireia Polytechnic to the site to turn it into 16-bed backpacker accommodation.

A new website set up last year had attracted more visitors and with the introduction of recycling at the park for the first time, a community composting project also took off.

Heazlewood ran the business on her own to start with, but now has eight staff, including herself and her partner, working 12-hour days from 8am to 8pm with three-day weekends every fortnight.

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Recently employing two new cleaners and two office staff had reduced her workload a bit.

"The whole culture has grown and got a lot busier. The only way for a manager to survive is to get some extra staff to spread the jobs a bit and concentrate on managing," she said.

WHAT IT COSTS

Overnight charges at the holiday park include: power/tent sites $15 for an adult and $7 for a child; $65 for two people staying in a cabin; $90 for two people in a tourist flat; and for the lodge it is $20 for an adult and $10 a child with a minimum charge of $400 a night. 

Contact Kay Blundell
Kapiti reporter
Email: kay.blundell@dompost.co.nz

- The Dominion Post

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