29 Jan 2020

Kiwi camping memories from the Ngā Taonga Sound Archives

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:37 pm on 29 January 2020

Memories of summers past linger on and Sarah Johnston is back for 2020 to relive some of them with treasures from the sound archives of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

"There’s something very nostalgic about caravans – I think the whole revival of interest in them in the past few years is based on nostalgia and the retro charm of a tiny house on wheels,” Sarah says.

Her search of the archives yielded some radio gems about caravans this week from the first half of the 20th century when they were still something of a novelty – to their heyday in the 1960s and early 1970s when the local caravan construction industry was booming.

In 1993 RNZ’s Spectrum programme paid a visit to the big Kahuna of Kiwi campgrounds – Tahuna Beach Holiday Park in Nelson – where Spectrum presenter Jerome Cvitanovich created a wonderful sound portrait of Kiwi camp life.

Camping at Tahuna Beach is something of a rite of passage for many a South Island teenager.  At one point it was the largest motor camp in the Southern Hemisphere. 

From earlier in the century is a recording made by the Broadcasting Service Mobile Unit in the late 1940s around Central Otago. 

“In 1948 they had their own caravan of sorts – a recording van – parked at Fox’s Motor Camp in Alexandra, which I suspect is on the site which is still the Alexandra Holiday Park today, perched above the Manuherikia River,” Sarah says.

Back in 1948, it was known as Fox’s Camp and Leo Fowler of the Mobile Unit interviewed some of its residents about the appeal of Christmas in the campground.

Ten years later, from 1958 we encounter what could be one of our first radio stories with freedom campers – although the term wasn’t around then.

“A couple going by the wonderful names of Commander and Mrs Tidy, who were travelling around New Zealand and Australia in their homebuilt, self-designed campervan.”

The formidable Mrs Tidy, who in 1958 was an early freedom camper, toured New Zealand in a self-contained campervan she designed herself, complete with a mill for grinding wheat and even a sewing machine!

The heyday of the caravan park was probably the 1970s, and in another Spectrum programme, we meet owners and residents of the Blue Dolphin Motor Camp at Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. 

The Blue Dolphin, like many of our prime beach-front parks, fell victim to developers and closed in 2001.

In 1977, a resident named Tom explained why he loves this sort of holiday for his family.

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Photo: Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

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