Inviting campers over to catch the latest All Blacks’ game on telly or taking a couple of ill travellers into their home and nursing them back to health is just part of the job, reckon Raglan Kopua Holiday Park managers Rob and Mary Clark.

But their peers obviously see such hospitality and compassion as well over and above the call of duty, as an Outstanding Service Award now proudly on display on the wall behind the Clarks’ reception desk at the Raglan camp testifies.

The award — made at the annual family parks conference recently in Taupo — came as a “complete surprise”, says a chuffed Rob.

He’s pretty sure it’s as a result of positive feedback from happy Raglan campers to the trans-Tasman family parks tourist chain of which they are members.

Rob recalls a time a couple of years ago when two German girls, after travelling through Indonesia, arrived here suffering from what was soon diagnosed as the deadly dengue fever.

He’d helped one of the distraught girls get her phone working so she could talk to her family, but then discovered how “extremely weak” her friend was back in their campervan.

Mary, who Rob describes affectionately as a “mother hen”, took the girls under her wing. They got the pair to the doctors and invited them into their home above the camp office for a couple of weeks, liaising with medics and caring for the girls until they were well enough to leave.

Their parents rang from Germany, says Rob, and were extremely grateful. “But I like to think someone would do the same for me if my girls were in the same situation.”

For 10 years now the couple have run the busy Waikato District Council-owned campground, which is the first in the North Island to win the award. North South Holiday Park in Christchurch claimed the shield-shaped award last year and Buronga Riverside Caravan Park in Mildura, Australia, held it for three years before that.

Competition comes from all directions, as about 200 family parks across New Zealand and Australia are members. Conferences alternate between the two countries.
Rob says it’s nice to be recognised by the industry and admits he and his wife do go that “extra mile”, often transporting young travellers to the bus depot in Hamilton for instance or maybe inviting someone home for the odd AB match.

The campground can accommodate 1500 people at its peak and has grown over the decade to include 13 staff members. It’s a long time now since Rob and Mary did almost everything themselves, with one in the office while the other was cleaning cabins.

Rob says the job is now a lot more managerial than “hands on”.
While the family parks industry has experienced “quite wildly” fluctuating bookings across the country — outside of central Christchurch, at least — Rob reckons Raglan’s had a good year as more and more Aucklanders in particular “discover” our town.

The latest award on the wall, along with a small Waikato District Council trophy that sits on the reception desk marking Rob and Mary’s 10 years of service, indicate the Clarks might also have had no small part in the holiday park’s increasing popularity.

Edith Symes