Visit sparks love affair with beach camp

"We have made a lot of friends"

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013
John Burt full
ROBERT CHARLES

Urenui Beach Camp holiday maker John Burt, right, has camped in the same spot for 30 years. His nephew Matt Burt and his wife Martina and daughter Nadia, 2, from Wellington, stand behind.

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Urenui Beach Camp has changed a lot over time, Lower Hutt man John Burt says.

He would know, he's been holidaying there for about 35 years. His brother talked him into going there in the late 70s and Mr Burt, 73, has returned every summer since.

"We always come up after Christmas and stay until January," he said.

Mr Burt has leased the same spot, near the river, from the first time he went there.

Since then, he's seen the king tide during Cyclone Bola, the cliff arch collapse, and had plenty of good fishing on his boat, Dolphin, in between.

"We have made a lot of friends in the time we've been here," Mr Burt said, pointing to the cabin next door.

"I have watched the neighbours' kids grow up - they're 19 or 20 now.

"When we first got here there was a dust road and no power.

"The facilities have got better since then."

Mr Burt said it got a lot more rowdy there on New Year's Eve back in the day, but now there were booze bans and most people were pretty family-oriented and sensible.

He and his family, with some other campers who had stayed there a while, helped out at the gates on New Year's Eve, giving out wrist bands to campers before security arrived to confiscate any contraband alcohol.

This year, he was expecting about 40 family members to join him in celebrations for the new year, including his five kids, their partners, and his 13 grandchildren.

His niece Martina Burt said Mr Burt got pretty excited about seeing everyone.

She said he got pretty excited when they went home, too. "He does a leap of joy and a victory dance when all the kids leave."

Mr Burt's wife, who died four years ago, used to paint Urenui beach scenes, some of which can be seen in the campground's office.

Part of his son Tony's documentary The Snapper Sandwich was filmed there.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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