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Tauherenikau hosts campervan gypsies

Glenis and Brian Wastney at Tauherenikau Racecourse campsite. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

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Tauherenikau Racecourse is home to more than just races and thoroughbreds these days.

Hectares of paddocks behind the racecourse are now being used regularly by a new type of tourist – campervanners.

With covid-19 closing the borders, empty nesters and retirees are selling the family home and taking to the road in well kitted-out campervans – in large numbers.

One such couple are Glenis and Brian Wastney, who sold their house in Blenheim and took to the road after Brian retired in late 2019

After travelling through the South Island and up the West Coast, they crossed Cook Strait and got as far as Tauherenikau, where they stopped.

“We arrived here on the fourth of July 2020 for two nights, and we’ve been here ever since,” Brian said.

They stayed on and have become the custodians of both the campsite and the nearby ranch house, which has basic accommodation.

The covid-19 pandemic was a major factor in the decision to pause the journey.

“We thought if we get further north and there’s a covid related lockdown, there’s not many places you can go when you’re living in a motor home,” Brian said.

The pair have become an important part of the campsite, helping manage the facilities and giving advice to visitors. They can’t speak highly enough about the site and the area.

“We are really passionate about the place,” Brian said.

“It’s such a beautiful area with the bush and the birds and the old grandstand and the facilities.

“It has a history. There’s not many old places like this left.

“We just love it,” he said.

“We love meeting the campers and it’s getting busier and busier every day.

“It’s a great spot. Everyone that comes here loves it.”

The campsite is in a large paddock with 55 sites, 10 of them with power. There is a toilet and shower block, as well as kitchen facilities.

The adjacent ranch house has basic accommodation which is popular with school groups.

Close to the Tauherenikau River and surrounded by native bush, many visitors take advantage of this for swimming.

Many of the campervanners are retired people having a local OE [overseas experience], but people of all ages and stages drop in.

Regulars include tourists of all ages, back-packers, tramping groups and large school groups.

“Some people don’t know how long they’re going to stay. They might plan to stay one night and end up staying another five,” Brian said.

The pair reeled off a list of attractions popular with guests, with bike trails being top of the list.

“A lot of people are coming with e-bikes and are doing the tracks,” he said.

“The cycle tracks up over the Rimutakas, the rail trail and all the other tracks,” Glenis said.

Other popular day trips include Ngawi and Cape Palliser, Castlepoint, Lake Wairarapa, and the Martinborough Wine Trail. Shopping in Greytown is also a perennial favourite.

Meanwhile, the Wastneys like the area so much they have decided to hang up the keys to their bus for good.

They will be settling down in a house nearby.

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