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Lake Ferry Holiday Park: Campground sale signalled

After a tumultuous six months of trying and failing to sell the business, a modern twist on the classic Kiwi holiday could be the solution to Lake Ferry Holiday Park’s woes.
KiwiCamp, a tech-based solution to freedom camping, has declared an interest in buying the lakeside business.
After being in the hands of the Tipoki family for 20 years, Mary Tipoki listed the campground for sale, price by negotiation, in April.
Tipoki and her late husband Maurice bought the business in 2002, taking over the lease on the 2.9 hectares of council reserve land.
In recent years, however, the relationship between the holiday park and the South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] has deteriorated, with disputes arising over campsite regulations and allegations of bullying.
Tipoki said she had loved providing a place for people to camp in South Wairarapa, but at 74 she “wanted out” and was looking forward to retiring.
Despite plenty of interest, however, she said she had struggled to convert interest into a sale – until recently.
KiwiCamp founder Chris Wagner confirmed yesterday he had been looking at the campground and teased an announcement regarding the holiday park was likely to be made next week.
If a sale goes ahead, the campsite would become one of 30 campgrounds around New Zealand operating with KiwiCamp technology.
Born from the constant and increasing presence of freedom campers at his Riverlands Roadhouse truck stop in Marlborough, Wagner decided to design an app and build facilities to manage it.
“I didn’t want to turn them away, so we were forced to create this.
“The stay is free, but if you want to charge your phone, wash your dishes or have a shower, there’s a charge.”
Wagner said the operation had expanded since its inception in 2017, and he and his wife Kamilla currently worked with 12 different councils around the country, providing a range of facilities from ablution blocks, to laundries, and waste recycling.
He said no money was exchanged when using the facilities, with all transactions carried out through an app.
Wagner said aside from turning a profit, he was motivated by a desire to protect the classic Kiwi holiday.
“We are looking at a few campgrounds around New Zealand at the moment, and there is one in Coromandel for $4.5 million right on the water.
“It doesn’t make sense for a campground to buy it. It’ll be developed.
“Where is that iconic Kiwi camping holiday going to exist in the future?”
Wagner said if he were to buy Lake Ferry Holiday Park it would be a first for KiwiCamp in terms of scale and the degree of ‘semi-permanence’.
“We would want to modernise the whole thing, make it a family-focused campground.
“It’s got so much potential.”
He said the fixed caravans on site and long-time camp users provided a sense of community that was under threat in modern times.
“That campsite is the epitome of the Kiwi community. It’s got so much to offer. Fishing, collecting paua, that was the kind of stuff I did when I was a kid, and this is what we want to protect.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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