Taking Care Of Business

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Regardless of where you stay while on holiday, it’s always fascinating to get to know the owners as they often have interesting and amusing anecdotes concerning events that have taken place there.

But what about the owners themselves?

What’s their story?

Over the past 40 years Waihi Beach Holiday Park has had only three lease-hold owners.  Prior to this, the camping ground was managed by staff members of the Ohinemuri County Council and it wasn’t until 1964 when the OHCC managed to get the lease terms extended that the Park became a viable business proposition for would-be managers.  The OHCC advertised the camp lease for tender – 21 years with a ten year right of renewal.

After much discussion, debate and the drawing of plans, Mr Roly Green and Mr Huon Gray submitted a tender to the council.  Roly and Huon had known each other from their shooting championship days and used to travel together, stopping at camping grounds and hired cabins around the country.  Roly was a farmer but wasn’t happy with it; he and Huon would sometimes sit dreaming of ways to earn money for little effort – perhaps camping grounds were the way to go?  Huon already had a long association with Waihi Beach; his parents had attended Waihi East School and he used to visit the area as a child with his family, traveling from Te Aroha.  He was fond of Waihi Beach and keen to relive those happy times.

A good number of others tendered for the lease too, so a meeting was held at the Council buildings for the hearing of applications.  Roly and Huon were left until last, and when they were called in there was much discussion until finally the Councilors reached a decision – ‘Mr Grey, Mr Green, we are very pleased with your application and we think your business plan is excellent,’ they said, ‘but we think your tender price is too high.’  They were asked to leave the room and come back with a new offer.  Unbelievably, they cut their tender price in half and it was accepted.

Roly and his wife Hilda sold their farm and Huon quit his $2,000-a-year job at Ruakura Research Station.  They took over in September 1964, following which Huon and his wife Bev moved to Waihi Beach around the 26th of the same month.  It poured with rain that day and Huon’s first job was to repair the roof of their new house, the one in which they live to this day.

The next few months were hectic and involved a lot of hard work – prior to Roly and Huon taking over, the camping ground had been closed by the Department of Health and there was much to do in order to put it back into shape.  Roly moved down to the camp and began work.  Farming people that they were, the Greens had a good deal of machinery and equipment to assist with the repairs and renovations.  By the middle of October the shower blocks, the kitchen and TV room were well on their way to being ready.  Bev and Hilda painted the buildings and looked after their children – seven between the two families.

‘Strangely’, Huon remembers, the campsite was finished and ready by Christmas.  Roly and Huon then announced by way of an advertisement that all of the old site-reservations were no longer valid.  All those who had eyes on a site they had long envied now had the opportunity to book in for the coming holidays.  It didn’t take long for word to spread and there was a scramble by both ‘new hopefuls’ and long time campers to secure ‘a spot’.

So on the 24th of December 1964 the Holiday Park was open for business once more and the cars began rolling in.  By midnight on Christmas Eve they had to put up a sign which read: ‘SORRY, CAMP FULL.’

In those days, the ordinary working stiff only got two weeks holiday a year plus the statutory holidays, so when his time at the park was up Dad went back to work while Mum and the kids stayed on.  These were dangerous times for male members of the holiday park staff, as Huon recalls: ‘With Dad out of the way and the kids running wild, Mums would come all over ‘girly’, and became quite crafty at luring the poor, defenseless camp workers into their tent, cabin, or one of the camp buildings on the pretext of fixing something or other that wasn’t actually broken or just for a chat, dressed in their best beach attire.’

Roly’s aim was to attract more families to the camp.  His navy training and strong family values made for a safe, friendly atmosphere as the younger crowds began to stay away when word spread of his firm hand.  At night he would patrol the camping ground with his two dogs, baton in hand, tapping on tent ropes to keep noise levels down – like it or not, he ran a tight ship.  A PA system was run from the office and Roly would announce the activities of the day as well as doing the mail-call, letting those who had mail know that it could be collected from the office.

Now deceased, Roly was interviewed in the 1970’s by the Katikati Advertiser, relating how much he enjoyed seeing the same families come back year after year, being able to watch as the children grew up, returning time and again with their families to enjoy their beach holidays.  He went on to say that the holidaymakers who frequented the camp were ‘a marvelous lot of people.’

Margaret Hogg, who began camping at Waihi Beach Holiday Park during Roly’s time as manager, remembers one day when some friends of hers, a young couple, turned up to stay.  Roly asked them whether they were married, and upon receiving the answer ‘no’ he exclaimed:  ‘Well, I’m sorry, but this is a family camp.’  In the end though, he let them stay, and as Margaret says ‘He was gruff and grumpy, but at the end of the day, he had a heart of gold.’

So, next time you bump into one of Waihi Beach Holiday Park’s crew, don’t be shy in striking up a conversation – chances are they’ll have an interesting anecdote or two of their own.