25 Aug 2021

Socially-distanced guitar jams at the beach

7:36 pm on 25 August 2021

Some people are spending lockdown in the comfort of a campervan by the beach, and they are all allowed to.

Vans outside a freedom camping spot in Marine Parade. The site is being kept open by the Napier City Council over alert level four.

Vans outside a freedom camping spot in Marine Parade. The site is being kept open by the Napier City Council over alert level 4. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

A seaside site in Napier has been kept open by the city council so people can self-isolate in their motorhome or van if need be.

Marine Parade in the city is surrounded by the glistening ocean, tall Norfolk pines and views out to Cape Kidnappers and Māhia Peninsula, often with no clouds in the sky.

This was lockdown living for Nikki and her pets, in her van.

"I've got two dogs, a cat and a budgie and I don't qualify for rentals, mainly because I've got too many pets," she said.

"Other people have ruined it for some of us and with a housing shortage, there's just not enough."

She usually moved around the city's freedom camping areas in her van.

"This is one of the spots I camp in, in the freedom camping areas. I just came here a few days or so ago and found out they're going to let us stay a bit longer."

Usually if they stay more than three nights they face a $200 fine.

The Napier City Council blocked off most freedom camping spots for the lockdown but was keeping this one at the bike pump track along Marine Parade open.

A council sign at the entrance said during the alert level four lockdown, self-contained vehicles would be allowed to use the park.

Napier City Council notice alert level 4 freedom camping

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Nikki said there was nothing like the view out the back of her van.

"Waking up to this beautiful ocean, beautiful Hawke's Bay, it's incredible."

Even if it sometimes got a bit cold.

"Ooh yeah, we freeze. If you don't have enough layers on it's a bit icy, but I mean, that's just what we learn, we learn to make sure you've got enough blankets."

But living without ablutions nearby, as the councils had locked the toilets, was hard - she said her shower at the moment was baby wipes and boiling water.

Her friend Quenten said the restrictions were tough.

"They've closed all the toilets, they've locked the toilets, they've locked some parts of the amusement parts down there, for the kids areas and all that down along the Marine Parade."

But Nikki thanked the council for letting them stay.

"It's really hard on us to know where we can be, so they have made it a lot easier by letting us stay here, which is good, thank the council hardcore for that!"

Freedom camping site in in Marine Parade has views of Cape Kidnappers at the south-eastern end of the Hawke's Bay.

Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

A few cars down, Robbie was staying in his 10-and-a-half metre campervan.

He and his wife recently returned to New Zealand from Australia after four decades away.

Their plan was to get a campervan and travel the country.

But that was put on hold when they heard about the return of the virus while driving to Matamata.

"Once we realised that it looked like the Covid restrictions were coming in fast, we got as far as Matamata ... we've got relatives in Matamata but we didn't really want to be locked down in Matamata so we thought we'd try and get to Napier and we got to Napier within the 36-hour window so we just got here in time."

Robbie was enjoying the view and the company - although the loud train nearby surprised his wife on the first night.

"Ruth said the first night, I think she said 'are you sure you're parked in the right spot, you're not going to have a train go through us any minute?' but no it was alright. Of course, it's a freight line, it's the main arterial road into Napier Port, so you get a fair bit of traffic all night, but the crashing of the waves is much better than any of that."

The "tribe" at the camping site, as Robbie called it, enjoyed a socially distanced guitar jam every now and then.

A Napier City Council spokesperson said the site was the most suitable site for people self-isolating in their vehicles.

They said there was a dump station and access to water nearby.