POP On In!
Unsure of exactly what’s expected when you stay in a Park Over Property? Don’t be shy says host Graeme Duder.
A free park in a safe environment has been the philosophy behind the Park Over Property scheme (POPs) since it was floated almost three decades ago, but long-time user and more recent host Graeme Duder (#23402) reckons newer members aren’t taking advantage of the many benefits of the scheme. After becoming members of the NZMCA in 2004, Graeme and his late wife Pam spent a decade travelling through New Zealand in their Nissan Safari and a 6.8 metre caravan. During that time they spent just three nights in a motor camp, making POPs their preferred choice for overnight stays.
“In those early days there were few, if any NZMCA Parks as we have around the country today,” he says. “We always referred to the Travel Directory on arrival at a destination, and where possible arranged a stopover at a POP or CAP (Charges Apply Property). “Without exception we were always made to feel most welcome by wonderful hosts on private properties in beautiful surroundings and have forged lifelong friendships with many of them.”
After 10 years on the road, both the Nissan and the caravan needed to retire, but Graeme wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the fabulous friendships he’d enjoyed with NZMCA members. So in March 2015, he welcomed guests to his own POP at his Banks Peninsula property (TD #7647) three kilometres out of Akaroa. He’s now close to welcoming his 250th guest, and says that almost without exception, he’s enjoyed meeting every single one.
However, Graeme has noticed that while the NZMCA membership is growing – and getting younger – it’s mainly the old-timers who tend to stay at POPS. He wonders if that’s because newer members aren’t sure they’re available in so many parts of the country, or whether they’re uncertain of the protocols and what is expected of them. “I would like to stress that as hosts we welcome our NZMCA guests to our properties because we love doing so. Nobody is forcing us, so don’t be shy.”
Graeme says the rules are simple at his place, which has space for two motorhomes: “My place is your place, so just relax.” Parking is free, although some guests often put a little something in the cookie jar as a thank you, and there’s a charge if you want to use the washing machine. Some visitors are keen to join Graeme for a glass of wine on the deck and a chat, others prefer to keep to themselves. Either is just fine by Graeme. “Some people have stayed for two or three nights and I’ve hardly seen them, others are keen to socialise.”
In the same way he made friends when he stayed in POPs around the country, he now counts some of his regulars as good mates. Guests have been generous over the years. One member who lives in her camper permanently misses having a garden, so volunteered to spend a day getting Graeme’s back into shape after he had been unwell. He’s justifiably proud of his beautiful part of Aotearoa (although he reckons the freedom camping situation is a bit of a shambles) and can match visitors up with the best of walking, cycling and eating. An arrangement with the nearest campground means his guests can use its dump station.
Graeme says the POP scheme is best summed up by the experiences of a couple who came and looked at his place, but decided not to stay because it didn’t have a sea view. They headed to a motor camp instead. He bumped into them the next day when they were looking slightly the worse for wear after being kept up by partying neighbours all night. “I haven’t got a sea view but I offer some pretty good hospitality,” he says. As well as encouraging more members to stay at a POP, Graeme is keen to be in touch with other hosts to see if there is any interest in developing some kind of network to make the most of the scheme.