For the last four years, my rear view on the way home has been something like this…not always wet, sometimes icy or, in the first year, snowing…
Last night was my last…
What was meant to be a six or so month gig to learn a bit more about hospo turned into a four year rollercoaster…learned so much from Spud and Davo, Jase, Keely and Carleen, El Loco, Elise, Caoimhe, Herve, Lydia, Toby, G-man, Koletso and Eddie…
Staff or customers, you get to socialise with the most eclectix mix..Schnapps is an icon not just in National Park Village but across the Central North Island, possible the world, the only pub with views of three active volcanoes, the best burgers and the best crew…
.Going off to do some other stuff for a couple of months and then see what happens next…
This is the general area of the National Park ward, part of the Ruapehu district. Most of the population is rural, with the main population centres all being small with permanent populations of around 200 each in National Prk, Raurimu and Owhango. The ward is unusual in that it also represents the interests of the population of Whakapapa Village at the base of Mt Ruapehu.
National Park Village is the major population and business centre in the National Park ward. It has a permanent population of around 200 but commercial beds for over 1000 visitors and a disproportionately large number of businesses for its size. It enjoys the distintinction of being New Zealand’s highest town @825 metres above sea level.
National Park Village is the gateway to Tongariro National Park, including:
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of New Zealand’s best day walks.
The Northern Circuit, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, that skirts Mt Tongariro and circumnavigates Mt Ngauruhoe.
The Round the Mountain trail, around Mt Ruapehu.
Whakapapa Skifield, one of the most popular, if not the most popular, snow tourism attractions in New Zealand.
A range of shorter day walks including Tama Lakes, Taranaki Falls, Silica Rapids and Tupapakurua Falls.
Nodes on the Te Araroa Trail and National Cycle Way that run the length of New Zealand.
While COVID-19 is having an obviously effect on tourism around New Zealand, smaller centres like National Park are more likely to come out of this crisis better than larger tourism-oriented centres like Queenstown and Rotorua.Things will change but most businesses here will endure and will still need staff in numbers greater than the local supply.
National Park Village has a crisis, a housing crisis. A large number of businesses mean staff numbers out of proportion to the village’s size and permanent population. Its alpine environment means that winter commuting from other centres like Turangi, Taumarunui, Raetihi or Ohakune (each 40-50km away) can be problematic assuming that staff have vehicles in the first place.
Staff may or may not have their own vehicle and those that do not have no public transport service to rely on for daily travel to/from work or even for shopping/life support/sanity. It is understood – and has been for a long time – that staff working in National Park businesses need accommodation in the Village.
The rise of Bookabach, AirBnB et al over the last decade mean that there are no incentives for local home owners to offer long term accommodation that can be used by staff. The rewards and flexibility of short term rentals simply outweigh any perceived advantages of longer term relationships:
Short term overnight rental rates approximate weekly rates for long term rental.
Properties remain available for owner’s use.
High turnover and rewards mean less incentives to invest in healthy homes compliance for heating and insulation.
Short term rentals offer less perceived risk of dodgy tenants.
The Department of Conservation maintains its own staff accommodation estates in Whakapapa and National Park Village. Traditionally, surplus accommodation in these estates has been available to staff from other local businesses. However, the primary purpose of that accommodation is for DOC staff and as local Treaty resolutions firm up, there is a possibility that these estates will be part of the resolution package.
The work around for many businesses in National Park and Whakapapa Villages is simply to provide accommodation for its staff. The four major employers in Whakapapa Village all provide staff accommodation as do the larger proportion of businesses in National Park Village. This is usually in the form of a house or houses owned by the business and available to staff as a flatting environment; or accommodation providers putting aside for staff a proportion of what would otherwise be income-earning accommodation. Either way, this is a considerable overhead cost for each of these businesses.
In the last three years there has been increasing pressure on seasonal accommodation for winter ski field staff. That has been mitigated to some extent this year with borders being closed and RAL et al having to depend more on locals for staff. As economic recovery continues, so will the need for full-time and seasonal staff drawn from outside the ward and the district.To its credit, RAL provides transport for its staff: ultimately though, this overhead will cap out as staff are forced to live further and further afield.
These issues are not new nor are they unknown. Last year, community leaders expreseed their concerns at the detrimental effects of the lack of long term rental accommodation in the National Park ward, especially National Park and Raurimu Villages. Not only does the lack of accommodation directly affect local businesses but it also ripples out into reduced school rolls; smaller recruiting pools for local emergency services and reduced coverage where members may be forced to live out of reasonable response times; and reduced domestic business.
The Ruapehu District Council has recently received approval for Government seed funding for housing projects in the Ruapehu district. This has been the result of various internal studies looking at both district needs and the potential for the district to benefit from COVID recovery initiatives. I’ve attended a number of those internal council workshops and community board meetings and raised these concerns. It was quite clear from the most recent workshop that having received this approval, the council didn’t actually have the faintest idea what to do with it or where to apply it.
In an attempt to remedy this, the Council has conducted housing huis in Taumarunui, Raetihi and Ohakune – nothing in the National Park ward. The Council’s response to challenges on this is that residents of the ward can submit directly to the council if they want to make their views known.
From the brief to the Community Board on Tuesday evening, it would appear that the Ruapehu District Council has decided that its contribution to the housing initiaive will be land ie land that it owns. That’s not much good to National Park where the council doesn’t own any significant land but where arguably the need is greatest – if anyone is serious about maintaining and fostering economic development in the district.
The council has been clear that it is looking for a low risk option for its housing initiative. Investing in long term rental accommodation in National Park is LOW RISK. These are tenants that don’t need assistance or subsidisation: they are all in jobs and receiving wages. Further, most if not all of them, bring skills and experience to the district. Historically, many of them put down roots here and eventually buy their own home, start families and contribute to the community in many ways. They are assets.
They are also assets that are declining jobs here because they can not find accommodation, especially for couples and families. One family spent a year living in a single room accommodation in one of the lodges until they were able to secure a rental home; there are couples sharing a room in flalting arrangements because long term rental accommodation is so hard to find.
Privately-run rental accommodation offers little security to individuals, couples or families because the incentives for owners to sell are so great. I ended up buying ahead of my schedule when my rented home was sold last year – ironically, its new owners contacted me this week after I raised this issue on local Facebook pages and they confirmed their intention to make it available for long term rentals once the current refurbishment is complete.
There is a clear need for a DOC-style estate in National Park Village. By this I mean a mix of one or two bedroom apartments and three bedroom houses similar to the current DOC estate in the Village. To avoid the attractions of short term commercial rentals, this estate needs to be run by central or local government – or in partnership with business agencies where the provision of long-term rental accommodation is protected.
If the Ruapehu District Council’s contribution is to be land only, there is land suitable for such an estate on the market in National Park Village as I write. It won’t be there for long.
The need in National Park Village has been articulated to the Council on many occasions, from both perspectives of welfare and economic development. What this requires is that the Council move with speed that is greater then that which it is accustomed to. Not just wisely-nodding heads that then go off and do whatever they want to to do.
I’m proposing that that Ruapehu District Council:
acqiure land in or close to National Park Village specifically for the development of a housing estate for staff employed in local businesses (including agencies like National Park Primary School).
Independently or in partnership with a government or private agency construct a rental housing estate for couples and families employed with the ward.
Consider opportunities to boost availbale renayl accommodation during peak seasons pending the outcome of COVID recovery. This may include establishing transport conenctions to housing in Owhango, and other centres north of National Park (south of the Village may be challenging in winter).
Adopt a strategy and polciies to ensure that accommodation remains available to meet the need in National Park i.e. to restrain the temptation for greater ROI through short term rentals.
This is the low risk option for the Ruapehu District Council.
It contributes to economic development in the district.
It addresses social and welfare issues arising from the lack of long term rental accommodation in National Park Village.
It operates at market rates, reducing risk and outlay for the Council.
It wasn’t a fluke of the roster that saw these four ladies turn out for an early morning fire alarm.
They weren’t hanging around the watch room waiting for the ‘tones’.
When the siren and pagers went off at 3-23 on this Monday morning, these firefighters, like most firefighters in New Zealand, were at home with their partners, children and pets…most safely asleep in their beds…
They have to wake up and get dressed (not always in that order), navigate a darkened house, and (for three of these four) drive 6km to the station – and get changed again – and then navigate to the scene.
It could be just across the road or around the corner…or a gruelling 20 minute drive along dark narrow twisting country roads…sometimes the location is vague at best and critical information has to be filtered from calls from other responding brigades and the Police just to find the scene…
Once on scene, they have to deal with what they find. Another brigade or agency may already have the matter in hand and so it’s back to the station, home, and bed. If work needs to get done, it’s gets done – until the scene is safe or reinforcements arrive to takeover.
Back at the station after a job, there’s still work to be done…the truck needs to be good to go for the next call – that could be in two days…or two hours…hoses might need washing, consumed consumables replaced, batteries swapped, air cylinders replaced, contaminated gear packed for exchange…possibly another hour of work…
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker…the mum of four, the outdoor instructor, the mechanical engineer…the full-time FENZ support officer, the guy in the gas station, the chap who checked you into your accommodation…the cafe owner, the pint puller, the commercial pilot…the high school student, the council staff officer, the Army firefighter…these are Firefighting New Zealand…on call 24/7…
Serendipitously I have found some fully fenced accommodation in National Park Village, it even has mountain views!
I’ve been here about a month now and am finally getting settled in, resuming my duties as the commandant of Colditz Castle as Louie tries to find ways out.
Louie and Kala seem to be adjusting to the sights and sounds of urban life, although Louie clearly misses being able to slope off into the bush for a couple of hours at a time.
The neighbours two down have Corgis and a visiting puppy and Louie spends a lot of time checking the neighbours out from the second story lounge.
This isn’t our permanent home but it gives us some breathing space to hunt around and stay together – if this opportunity hadn’t come up, I would have been making some tough decisions in March after getting back from the EMA course.
It’s getting colder now and we have the fire on most days. Without tbe elevated ceiling of the Lodge, heating the lounge when I get home from work each night only takes about the same amount of time as it takes to feed the dogs so we now have a fixed routine in the evenings.
It’s not worth trying to build here over winter, so hopefully this place will keep us going til spring when we hope to acquire some land to build on…
Well, it’s been a month or so since the big move…am settled for now in National Park Village and the dogs are happy in their respective foster homes…
Just about everything is in storage and I’m slowly starting the big downsize…in the end I left a lot of stuff behind as I realised I didn’t really want or need it, nor the hassle of trying to unload it through Trademe or the buy and sell boards…
Didn’t finish the final move until 4AM on the settlement day but by then I just wanted to be well shot of the place. No final pix as I accidentally packed my phone in one of the last loads…
I’m liking living in the Village for now, being able to walk to and from work each day, meeting people, having occasional chats on the roadside, getting a feel for the Village vibe, not being last on the truck when the siren sounds…but…I miss the dogs and that’s my main motivation to find a new home.
Renting in the Village is not really an option as no one has heard of fences and dogs just run free, so it’s really a choice between buying an existing home or a block of land to put something on. The pickings are pretty slim in the Village, or even in Raurimu where we moved from but there are possibly some options in and around Owhango, although that would be the end of the walk to work thing…
Worse case scenario is opting to rehome Louie and Kala which opens up my own rehoming timeline but a a big cost…I’m away on course the next two weeks and will have to start sizing that option up on my return…
When this all blew up at the end of 2013, I’d just left the Air Force. Had I known of this mess before my departure, I may have looked at staying on but after eighteen months working for a sub-optimal boss, I pretty much just wanted to be gone…
Happy Air Force days…
Looking back, then, I wasn’t that attached to this place, the area, the district…the whole time that I had been living up here, just over nine years at that point, I had essentially been working out of the district – the only people I had any sort of relationship with was whoever was pumping gas at the National Park Service Station. Seriously…
Looking back through my albums, most of my pix are either here in Raurimu, or around New Zealand or the world…no pix of National Park Village at all
Not National Park…
I didn’t really want to move back to Auckland or Wellington…I still think that central Wellington is a great location centrally but after ten years here, Wellington’s become “…a great place to visit but wouldn’t want to live there…” I was applying for jobs in the provincial centres, mainly in my local or central government comfort zone…I saw myself eventually living in the rural periphery of someplace like Hamilton or Tauranga, possibly a South Island centre but never really looked that far…
Happy Meal treat
Staying north or moving south…either way, it’s moving away from and towards family. It probably seems silly but a lot of the decision making revolved – then – around these guys…any solution that didn’t include them was unlikely to be a goer, more so since this was well before I discovered Tracy’s Rottweiler Rescue & Rehoming New Zealand as a means of rehoming the fur babies if it came to that…
My Air Force role had been pretty intense and so, like when I departed the Army, I granted myself some headspace time before actively seeking something new. I’d enjoyed working as a census collector for the 2013 census as this was a license to explore my local patch and so when DOC advertised a casual role , I thought it’d be pretty good to get paid to wander around the Park over summer 13/14. That’s when my roots started to grow in volcanic soil…
I never thought for a second that I’d have been able to fend off ANZ this long and the uncertainty has been part of me over this five year campaign…now the question really looms…
This attack on the Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade was published in this week’s edition of the Ruapehu Bulletin. It is an apparent response to this notice published by the Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade a fortnight or so ago:
As of today our water delivery price will be going up to a minimum charge of $200 then anything over the 1 hour there will be an extra charge of $25/15 minutes.
We have had to renew our water carrier approval license and also now need to do regular water hygiene checks. With part of the requirement we need to do a yearly audit so now we also have to pay the council for the water, I do want to make it clear that this is not at the council’s request it’s a requirement for our certification.
We are no longer allowed to deliver water with the same truck that was used for fire service duties so as a brigade we still wanted to maintain servicing the community in both water deliveries and fire fighting capabilities so we purchased another tanker at a huge cost to the brigade.
This is still a voluntary and non profit making service with continued running costs rising we have been forced into these changes. Any outstanding invoices owed to the brigade you have 2 weeks to clear on old pricing then from the 1st March you will be charged the new rates.
CFO Keith Watson
The Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade is as its name suggests, and like all the other fire brigades in the Ruapehu District, a volunteer fire brigade. That means that all its members freely give of their own time to provide this essential service within our communities. This commitment comes at the cost of significant disruption to personal and professional lives, is not without frequent physical risk, and comes with the sole reward of a job well done.
On top of its significant commitment to maintaining (it’s not all riding on a fire engine under lights and siren: there’s a major training requirement for all members as well) and delivering an excellent firefighting capability in Ohakune and the broader Ruapehu District, the Ohakune Brigade voluntarily provides a water delivery service in the community. The only payment sought for this service is to cover the direct costs of compliance, certification and delivery: there is no profit margin and no person gets any financial reward for providing this service.
Just a little sidenote on the Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade’s tanker capability. This is community-funded i.e. the Ohakune community raised the funds for these tankers themselves. In addition to providing a great capability to Ohakune firefighting operations, the new 18,000 litre tanker (18,000 litres is about 9 times what a normal fire engine carries onboard) provides a reliable water supply for firefighting in areas not supported by mains water supplies and where there may not be an available alternate water source like a stream or water tanks.
18,000 litres of water on the hoof (c) Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade
To be this into a local context, while the main water supply in National Park Village is being repaired this week, there will be insufficient guaranteed mains pressure for firefighting in the Village. To ensure a viable water supply during this period, the big Ohakune water tanker will be ‘attached’ to any major firefighting callouts in the Village.
Chief Fire Officers are busy people. They have to:
maintain the same skills as their firefighters.
be prepared, at the beep of a pager, to deal with a range of contingencies including flooding, fallen trees, detaching roofs, assistance to ambulance, motor vehicle accidents, hazsubs spills and leaks, and a whole raft of different firefighting challenges.
be on top of all the administration required to make a fire brigade function.
do all this without pay or reward beyond the knowledge of a job well done.
Chief Fire Officers have better things to do than endure and respond to vexatious and petty attacks from the likes of John Chapman.
John Chapman signed his letter as a member of the National Park Community Board. I have spoken with members of the National Park Community Board and at no time have any concerns regarding the water delivery service provided by the Ohakune Volunteer Fire Brigade been raised with the Board, let alone discussed at a Board meeting or progressed to a resolution of any form. I would think if the National Park Community Board was going to adopt any resolution regarding this service it would be one of support and appreciation.
Certainly, support and appreciation has been the unanimous and common theme amongst members of the National Park community since Mr Chapman’s letter was published.
It’s unlikely but perhaps some members of John Chapman’s own community in the Waimarino-Waiouru ward have some concerns about the increases in water delivery costs. This is something that they would need to raise with the Waimarino-Waiouru Community Board, a group quite capable of managing local issues within their own ward. Not only is in appropriate for John Chapman to (ab)use his position on the National Park Community Board to launch an attack on a matter in another ward, his actions implies that Community Board in that ward is unable to function without Mr Chapman’s input. That is most definitely not the case.
This from comments on the letter on Facebook. John Chapman, it would appear, is actually a local firefighter himself, rural, I believe. One can imagine that his brigade’s next training session may be somewhat ‘interesting’, the conversation potentially robust…
This is not the first time that John Chapman has (ab)used his position as a community board member to launch petty attacks against local community members. Last year he conducted a campaign against the Chair of the National Park Community Board because she would not bow down before his (allegedly) superior political experience. His motion of no confidence in the Chair was soundly defeated with community members speaking on behalf of the Chair and acknowledging her long commitment and contributions to the community.
More recently, John Chapman took advantage of his position on the National Park Community Board to read out an interminable personal statement relating to his vendetta against anti-1080 signage at Waikune. This related to provocative statements he had made on the National Park Community Facebook page – this purports to be representative of the community but is really just another soapbox for John Chapman – which had resulted in some backlash from the community. His actions on this page are totally independent of his membership of the National Park Community Board and Mr Chapman needs to learn that actions have consequences and that the Community Board is not there to act as a shield when his actions generate consequences. The targets of this vendetta attended this meeting and it is a credit to them that they calmly opted to not rise to his provocation, leaving him alone in the mud.
Perhaps it’s time for Mr Chapman to consider whether he truly does represent the community of the National Park ward. If he hopes to do more for the community, then he needs to reconsider his game plan. If he hopes to use his Community Board activities as a springboard for higher office, he should realise that his current conduct is unlikely to endear him to the voting public.
If John Chapman thinks community board membership is just about lashing out at those who dare to disagree with him, maybe he needs to stand down and seek such solace in some overseas socialist nirvana…
1. “Hikers will have only four hours to do the 19km trail” Wrong! The 4 hour time limit for parking is to allow visitor to the park to do some of the shorter walks from Mangatepopo car park. In addition, any intimation that the Crossing is doable in 4 hours is simply irresponsible – yes, I saw the note about the normal times – first responders up here do enough rescues of people who can’t get their timing right already.
2. “Hikers can alternatively park at the Mangatepopo car park and then pay for a shuttle to the start” Mangatepopo IS the start of the Alpine Crossing.
3. “…at a cost of $30 per adult and $25 per child….” Where did these figures come from? The cost per adult ranges from $25-40; children less than 10-12 years old are not encouraged on the Crossing and so many operators do not have child prices. At a guess, this ‘reporter’ has only looked at one site and concluded they didn’t need to look further.
While this initiative is years overdue, it would have been more effective if DOC had not waited until only a couple of weeks before Labour Weekend, the typical start of summer walking, the weather notwithstanding, when many operators have already printed their brochures and accepted advanced bookings.
Visitors are encouraged to catch the buses that will be running from National Park Village every day that the weather permits.
Visitors are also asked to consider starting later in the day to avoid the traditional bubble of people that start the walk between 6 and 9AM. When the weather is good, the Crossing can be started at midday and completed by 8PM with a couple of hours of daylight left (take a torch in case you miscalculate) and if you have made arrangements to be picked up from the finish at Ketetahi.