How It All Began
Gisborne is known as a city of firsts…The first to receive Cook…The first in the world to see the sun rise each day..and maybe that’s why Gisborne folk tend to take the initiative and do things their own way. Our association was formed on the 22nd March 1956, by Mr AJ Anderson of Gisborne, in an impromptu and rather unorthodox fashion after the need for a ‘banding together’ of ‘companions in sorrow’ was felt- due to the following circumstances:
The year before, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson (Andy & Gladys) had purchased, to fulfill a long dreamed of ambition, what was even then a vintage passenger bus, a 1928 3 and a half ton Reo ‘Speedwagon’ which for 28 years had provided a service between Whatatutu and Gisborne. The latter part of this period, in the capacity of a combined workers and school bus, running between Patutahi and Gisborne. At the time of the purchase by the Andersons, the old Reo had wound the speedo round 7 ¼ times- 724,000 miles. Andy had become very caravan minded after owning five of the trailer type of caravan from 8ft up to 24ft and finally decided to go the self propelled way. For conversion to a motor caravan a complete face lift was necessary and this was to mean three years of spare time work before the job was finished.
As it happened the many hours of work were the least of the snags encountered in the project. After purchase, it took most of the morning to get the papers swapped over from a Commercial bus to a private caravan. The local P&T (Post & Telegraph) had never heard of such a thing and didn’t know what class to put it in. The class of ‘self propelled caravan’ was then non existent- so a compromise was reached by making it ‘Class 15’ i.e. hearse, ambulances and vehicles not otherwise specified- the fee for which (with Heavy Traffic fee included), was 17 pounds 10 shillings per annum. After conversion, the Warrant of Fitness became a further worry, entailing most of a morning at the local Council Testing Station, and the Andersons were extremely exasperated by the cost of fees required to operate, what was to their mind a considerably safer vehicle than the caravan-car combination. The latter paid much less in registration and no heavy traffic fees and this seemed to them illogical.
They approached the local Caravan Club but were regarded as traitors to trailer caravanning, and no interest was exhibited, so they turned to the Chief Traffic Officer for Gisborne. He was adamant that anything over two tons paid Heavy Traffic fees- that was the law and he intended to enforce it! They wrote a letter to ‘Truth’ and this publication printed the letter with pertinent comments from various sources- but as usual, the authorities were not reading ‘Truth’ that week. In the meantime the Government raised the Heavy Traffic fees by 33 1/3% which was exorbitant considering the small mileage done in a motor caravan.
The Andersons then approached the local Member of Parliament, to see if a special class for Motor Caravans could be created, with reasonable Heavy Traffic fees payable, but had no results. After the next election, with another party in power they made further approaches, but being individuals with too small a voice they received scant attention. It was obvious that an association of owners of self-propelled caravans was required to lend weight to those requests. The Government had to be made aware of the need for a special class in which to register these vehicles, if a reduction in Heavy Traffic fees payable on a tonnage basis over two tons was to be achieved.
Having the feeling that they were butting their heads against a brick wall, and knowing practically no one else with a Motor Caravan, it was reluctantly decided to weigh the vehicle now finished and pay the fees on a quarterly basis for the summer months. While on the weighbridge Andy was approached by Len Webber who stated quite categorically, that he was not paying Heavy Traffic fees on his vehicle (a 4-ton Mack-ex Road Service from Rotorua). On the contrary, he had been assured by Mr. Dixon who was the solicitor to the Traffic Office in Wellington , and had helped form the traffic regulations, that the vehicle was classed as a car. It carried no more than nine paying passengers, nor was it used for hire, so he was not liable. Mr. Webber agreed that an Association should be formed- so Andy, a complete layman as far as business matters were concerned, suggested to Mr Webber that he start it. Len declined owing to pressure of business. ‘Right, said Andy, ‘I’ll start it. I’m Member No. 1 and you are Member No. 2. We shall call it the ‘NZ Motor Caravan Association.”
(Excerpt from John Spain's 'Down Memory Lane', the History of the First 50 Years of the NZMCA)