Rodney Algie at Masterton’s Mawley Holiday Park, which he has run with his wife, Jelena, for the past seven years. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM
Rodney Algie says he’s a shy person so it’s quite funny that he has been running a holiday park that 27,000 people stayed at last year.
When Wings Over Wairarapa is on, 400 people stay at Mawley Holiday Park, in Masterton, which Algie has run with wife, Jelena, for the past seven years.
The holiday park is owned by Masterton District Council, and last week councillors attending the infrastructure services committee paid tribute to the couple who are leaving the park on September 30.
Algie, who has turned 65, said the park was “a jewel” – a valuable asset for Masterton.
He describes it as one of the best holiday parks in New Zealand.
The couple are moving to Bay of Plenty but will do relief work at holiday parks.
“I think in life, you have to recognise when one stage finishes and another one starts,” he said.
“We feel we have accomplished what we set out to do,” he said.
Algie had been running shearing gangs for 30 years when he took on the park. He was born in Masterton and grew up in South Wairarapa.
Much of it had been refurbished when they couple arrived, but in their time a shower block has been added, and a security fence, and units were further upgraded.
Algie said he did the “day-to-day stuff” and Jelena worked to get the four star-plus Qualmark rating and on time-consuming regulatory matters.
“One of the things we concentrate a lot on is our online reviews. because reviews are everything,” he said.
He said the park got some of the top reviews for accommodation in Masterton through all sorts of different channels.
The couple had a vision when they arrived and a simple basic philosophy – keep the park clean and looking good, “and the third thing is how we relate to you”.
“We work very hard to create an atmosphere in the park and to do that, it starts with the people.”
But it’s no sinecure running a holiday park.
If you want to sit around all day and drink beer, you are in the wrong place.
The park had a warm and friendly environment and the couple have made friends for life running it.
At this time of the year, they have as many as 30 young people from Europe and elsewhere staying for up to six weeks at a time as they worked locally. They slept in their cars and used camp facilities.
On a Friday night, they sometimes gather and cook up food from their homeland.
Bookings from school groups are also a growth area.
Algie has firm views on freedom camping. He says Masterton is fortunate not to be on the main tourism route but would one day have to deal with the issue.
Mawley Park, with 11 acres on the banks of the Waipoua River a short distance from Masterton’s main attractions, was still an expanding business even with freedom camping becoming so popular.
Algie said he had been round the world six or seven times but had never seen mess like that left in popular freedom camping areas of New Zealand.
“As a nation we pat ourselves on the back because our tourism numbers are rising but so many people are travelling around with no money,” he said.
“We are encouraging all these people to come to New Zealand with no money and travel around for next to nothing and they are not putting anything back into our economy,” he said.
But he said Mawley adapted to the challenges.
“It hasn’t stopped the park being successful.”