New Zealand Motor Caravan Association AGM and National Rally

I am delighted to officially open the 63rd New Zealand Motor Caravan Association National Rally and Annual General Meeting. I want to thank Mr Bruce Lochore, Chief Executive Officer, for inviting me to speak today, and the Eastland Area group for putting on such a fantastic event showcasing Gisborne and the Tairawhiti region.

New Zealand has been blessed with some of the most unique and stunning scenery in the world, and Gisborne is no exception. We are all lucky to call New Zealand home, to be able to enjoy these surroundings every day.

However, I am aware that this needs to be done responsibly without harming the environment, local communities and damaging the sustainability of the tourism sector.

Managing tourism – domestic and international - is a team effort, and no one group can solve all the issues by themselves.

With this in mind, last year I set up the Responsible Camping Working Group to develop solutions to issues associated with freedom camping, and move towards more responsible camping.

The Working Group represents a collaborative effort across central government, councils and industry to identify options for better management of responsible camping.

Bruce is a member, and I have valued the insights of Bruce and the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association. Managing the responsible camping system is a complex issue, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

We know that most campers are respectful, and that they want to do the right thing by camping responsibly – it is the core of what NZMCA stands for and promotes.

The working group identified that a bit of collaboration – mahi tahi, a bit of funding – pūtea and a bit of hard work - could make a big difference.

This summer, we have been working with local councils and communities to improve the freedom camping experience for everybody.

You may have seen that $8.5 million was made available for new and upgraded facilities, education programmes and enforcement activity, and it’s had a great impact.

We’ve heard that there have been fewer issues than we’ve seen in previous summers and this approach appears to be working very well for campers and communities alike.

We also tried out a pilot to provide campers with real-time updates on the availability of camping spaces, using solar powered cameras and sensors to let users of the app know if there is space available in the campsite they are wanting to stay at, before they get there.  If the site is full, the app then offers suggested alternatives, including paid campsites.

This gives campers the chance to make other plans if the campsite they want to go to is full, reducing overcrowding and providing campers with a better experience, which fits right in with the Back to the Future theme of this year’s National Rally.

By working together and collaborating with local government and digital partners we can provide better experiences, look after the environment and allow communities to benefit from increased tourism in their area.

The Government is continuing to look at the longer-term actions that will help to better manage responsible camping. This includes looking into the certification of self-contained campervans, and providing clarification on zoning for camping.

We’ll also be reviewing how the funding for this summer went, and the Responsible Camping Working Group will be meeting early this year to talk about the next steps.

I am encouraged by the fact that the Rally this year is themed around “Back to the Future,’ and I hope that the workshops and displays here help you think about how to best prepare yourself for the future of motor caravanning.

The Back to the Future theme resonates with the Government’s work priorities, thinking about what we need to do now to have productive, sustainable and inclusive tourism growth well into the future.

The consultation for the draft Aotearoa-New Zealand Government Tourism Strategy closed in early-February, and this will help inform the work that the Government does on the tourism system in the future.

A priority for the Government is helping our regions take advantage of the benefits of tourism growth. We know with the right management, tourism can make our communities vibrant and thriving places to live and visit.

We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to camp responsibly around New Zealand.

Campers like you visit more areas of New Zealand than your average visitor, and I know there is a long list of amazing things to see that the Eastland Area group have put together.

The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association does a lot of work to introduce all 80,000 members to the magic hidden in our smaller communities and out in our regions. The National Rally is another example of this wonderful work.

I am glad that attending this event also means you can take the opportunity to explore the East Coast, an area of New Zealand which is off the radar for many of our visitors.

Once again, thank you for the hard work you do promoting responsible camping around New Zealand. It gives me great pleasure to officially open the 2019 National Rally and Annual General Meeting. I hope you can make the most of the East Coast’s beautiful summer while you are here.