Another Year of Progress - Annual Report
NZMCA President Bruce Stanger presented his Annual Report at the Association’s AGM, which was held during the National Rally, in Gisborne.
On behalf of the Board I’m delighted to be able to present this Annual Report on another 12 months of significant progress in all areas for the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association. Membership has continued to increase ahead of expectations with our fourth year in a row of double-digit growth; our finances are in excellent shape; we have added considerably to our NZMCA Parks portfolio; and more member benefits have been developed with our family of key partners.
As a result, at the end of the last financial year (September 30, 2018) NZMCA had assets of more than $13 million, including our multimillion dollar portfolio of Park properties and cash investments of $3.79million. I can’t help thinking that our founding members would be simply amazed to see that what they began as a tiny organisation way back in the mid-1950s is now a thriving, well-respected Association with more than 85,000 individual members.
Having said that, the Board has faced significant challenges – which in some cases have required difficult decisions – in the past year to ensure we not only remain relevant to our fastchanging membership but also maintain our influence and relationships at the highest level. Key aspects of the Association’s achievements in the 2017/18 financial year have included:
Expanding the NZMCA Park Portfolio
New properties – at Tokerau Bay, Dargaville, Waihi Beach, Te Araroa, Gisborne, Bell Block (New Plymouth) and Motueka – have grown our NZMCA Parks portfolio to 43 owned or leased properties nationwide, exclusively for members’ use. As I write this, more potential new sites for NZMCA Parks are currently being investigated for suitability. Mainly in the South Island, they are at: Lake Hawea, Oamaru, Invercargill, Kaikoura, the Willows (Waimakariri River Regional Park); and a smaller ‘boutique’ site at Pauanui, on the Coromandel.
During the year just gone, upgrade and development work continued on existing sites to ensure our properties better meet members’ needs. Another initiative during the year was the launch of the NZMCA Park fee payment functionality (an easy-to-use alternative to paying cash) on the Association’s Travel App – which has quickly become well-used by members.
To all of our volunteer members and Park Custodians who help with on-going park maintenance and the day to day operations, thank you. We couldn’t do it without you.
NZMCA Park Usage
Analysis of NZMCA Park usage shows the number of members using the Parks continues to grow, while the number of nights stayed is increasing even faster. The latest figures showed Park revenue was over $500,000 for the first time and indicated:
- Around 42 per cent of members – that’s up by around 5 per cent – used a Park at least once during the year;
- Those that are using NZMCA Parks are staying more nights per year; In total, there were nearly 140,000 nights stayed by a little over 17,000 memberships.
- The top eight parks by the number of nights stayed were, in order: Taupo, Weedons, Ardmore, Ngongotaha, Ericksen Rd, Murchison, Woodhaugh and Rainbow Falls; Both Taupo and Weedons recorded more than 10,000 nights stayed for the first time.
- 55 per cent of the total nights stayed were at these top eight parks.
Reserving sites at NZMCA Parks
In response to strong member demand, the Board approved a change in policy to allow members to reserve their sites at NZMCA Parks. The issue arose because while caravanners could park up then leave the Parks in their tow vehicles, those motorhomers who don’t have access to a separate vehicle didn’t have that same opportunity.
The new policy allows members to arrive at a Park, pay for their stay, and leave a sign that the site is taken for the night to drive out to attend to laundry, get groceries or explore the local town, then return to the same site later that same day. Sites are not able to be reserved overnight, nor are members able to reserve other sites for fellow members arriving later in the day.
Minister of Tourism’s Working Group
The appointment of NZMCA CEO Bruce Lochore to the Minister of Tourism’s Working Group on Responsible Camping was recognition of our Association’s position at the forefront of the industry. He was one of just nine members of the group, announced by Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis, which included leaders from local government, industry and central government agencies.
Following the group’s report to the Minister, the Government appears to be taking a cross department approach to the issue – with high-level representation from the ministries of Local Government, Health, Conservation, Land Information and Transport at a follow-up meeting to consider the next steps. Ministers indicated that they are open to considering legislative change, but were particularly interested in pushing forward with options that can be put in place relatively quickly. This includes such options as:
- Updating the camping ground regulations;
- Finding an appropriate government agency to oversee the Certification of Self- Contained Vehicles;
- Looking at how LINZ/NZTA can work better with councils;
- Investigating a government agency maintaining and making publicly available a database reflecting the decisions in various freedom camping by-laws and the rules set by different government agencies; and
- Investigation into what further guidance to councils would be useful.
In early 2018, the NZMCA’s membership-wide survey gave the Board and National Office clear feedback on a number of key issues. They included:
- 90% of survey respondents supported the Association’s stance of excluding people mover type vehicles from being certified as self-contained;
- 81% would be willing to pay for Certified Self-Containment inspections;
- 98% believe the Association should continue to commit resources to protect members’ ability to freedom camp in a CSC vehicle.
The one survey question that members were most evenly split on was whether they would be prepared to have their annual membership fees increased to maintain or fund additional NZMCA Park purchases – 54% said yes they would, while 46% disagreed. There was no such split however on four important questions where members were asked their opinions on a scale between Strongly Disagree and Strongly Agree. They were all overwhelmingly in favour of the following propositions:
- The NZMCA should continue to invest our resources in new Parks for members’ exclusive use – 88% average score;
- All NZMCA member vehicles should be Certified Self-Contained – 88%;
- The NZMCA’s resources and Self- Containment programme should focus on certifying members’ vehicles only – 79%;
- The ability to freedom camp is important to me – 91%.
- Run by online survey specialists, Ask Your Team, this was the second major online survey of the full membership in the past two years.
During the year, the Board made some important decisions which reaffirmed the Association’s focus on its membership. In years gone by we’ve been lumped with responsibility for all aspects of ‘the industry’, but the reality is we are New Zealanders looking after New Zealanders. So following the decision late last year to temporarily restrict NZMCA membership to New Zealanders only, the Board in early 2018 extended this to a moratorium of up to two years on accepting overseas members.
Given the complexity of the issue, the Board felt this was necessary to give ourselves more time to consider the wider issues of CSC, freedom camping and membership. As previously, the moratorium does not apply to existing members; nor to genuine members of our sister organisations. Later in the year the Board made two further decisions which are again designed to protect the NZMCA’s brand and reputation:
1. Implementing another moratorium of up to two years on certifying the proliferation of small, budget passenger cars converted into self-contained vehicles.
Following our own observations, including feedback from experienced testing officers, members, local authorities and communities nationwide, Board members accepted these vehicles are not living up to initial expectations insofar as the usability of the toilet is concerned. Believing that continuing to certify people movers will further compromise the credibility of the NZ Standard, the Board approved a temporary stay of up to two years on certifying people movers and passenger cars.
National Office has since provided all SCOs with a list of the makes of vehicle which are affected by the stay, along with a formal interpretation of 6.1.1 of the Standard to ensure ‘the purpose and intent’ of the Standard is fully taken into account when assessing a vehicle’s suitability.
2. Deciding to stop certifying rental vans containing porta-potties (that’s about one third of the country’s rental fleet).
Over the past decade, the Association has helped commercial operators certify their self contained vehicles on a cost-recovery basis only – on the basis that this ensured we raised the standard of camping vehicles across New Zealand, while promoting the benefits of the Standard to communities, local authorities and DOC. However, the Board felt continuing to certify rental vans containing porta-potties had become a risk to the NZMCA.
Unfortunately, over the past 12-18 months the public and many local authorities had grown extremely wary of certified vehicles with portable toilets. We were aware of several incidences where rental vehicle users had not used the portable toilets as expected, including removing the toilets to make way for storage or simply refusing to use them due to a lack of privacy. And because the NZMCA brand is registered on rental vehicle self-containment warrants and certificates, the public and some local authorities were beginning to query the NZMCA’s role and true position on responsible camping.
The Board believed these issues were compromising the credibility of self containment along with the integrity of the NZMCA’s certification scheme and if left unchecked, the potential consequences could be long-lasting. While Board members agreed that continuing to certify such vehicles in the rental industry was an unacceptable risk to the NZMCA at this stage there is no intent to withhold certification from members’ vehicles with porta-potties.
The NZMCA’s strong partnership with Local Government New Zealand – the organisation that represents the country’s territorial authorities – has taken another step forward, with CEO Bruce Lochore and National Policy & Planning Manager James Imlach invited to join a LGNZ Working Group. Formed to improve the management of freedom camping nationwide, the group’s aims include providing updated guidance and good practice examples to local authorities nationwide. The group is also advocating for the reinstatement of an administering authority to oversee the use and interpretation of the Self-Containment Standard, to help maintain its credibility.
A highlight of the upcoming National Rally will be the unveiling of a special piece of our history – the NZMCA’s #1 motorhome. Originally owned by our Association’s founders, Andy and Gladys Anderson, the vehicle (a vintage 1928 REO Speedwagon which had started its life as a bus) was not much more than a chassis on wheels when a group of enthusiastic volunteers from the Eastland Area took on the mammoth task of rebuilding and refurbishing it to its former glory.
Together they have put in hundreds of hours over the past two years in what has truly been a labour of love. Like many of you, I look forward to seeing their results of their efforts – especially as the unveiling is to take place, entirely appropriately, in Gisborne, where our Association had its beginnings. On behalf of all the membership, I thank the Eastland members for their dedicated restoration of this historic icon.
Caravans on the Rise
The growth of caravans as new members’ vehicle of choice is continuing to accelerate, while all other vehicle segments remain constant. In each of the past four years (from 2014 – 2017) caravans have been the single biggest sector of vehicles owned by new members; peaking in 2017 with some 2600 new members identifying as caravan owners, while the owners of motorhomes and campervans were both around 1400. Across all members who own vehicles, 34% own motorhomes; 33% own caravans; 18% own campervans; 13% own buses, and 2% own 5th wheelers.
The NZMCA’s support of the country’s regions through its off-the-beaten-track strategy took another significant step forward. Over October and November, an NZMCA-backed TV show, RV Explorers, aired on mainstream TV. Part of the Association’s long-term plan to ensure that provincial NZ gets its fair share of the tourism bonanza – the new show profiled six regions in hour-long episodes: Kaikoura, Whanganui, Whangarei, Coromandel, Tararua and the Far North.
The RV Explorers show was the first time the motorhome lifestyle has been featured in a regular show on NZ mainstream TV. The off-the-beaten-track strategy was further strengthened by the ongoing development of our successful Summer Events program – which this summer is based on the theme ‘Your Summer Sorted With Us’ – and the continued growth of the Motorhome Friendly towns scheme. The scheme now has 52 locations, stretching from Kaitaia in the north to Gore in the south.
Information systems review
The Board initiated investigation of the requirements of a new Member System which is proposed to replace the existing property and member management systems and websites. This work commenced in mid-October with a business analyst who has spent a great deal of time engaging with National Office staff and documenting business requirements. Development of a new system offers the opportunity to look at how and why we do things, and question whether there is a better way.
With the fast-changing nature of today’s business environment, as much flexibility as possible will be built into any potential new system, while integration with accounting software will be a crucial part of the solution. It is anticipated that costings will be available in the first quarter of 2019, when the Board will make a final decision on whether to go ahead with development of the new system.
More Member Benefits
The Board and National Office have had considerable success in recent years generating extra income from external sources to maintain the Association’s development while keeping membership fees as low as possible. In 2018 our extensive Member Benefits program took another step forward with two more companies formally coming on board – the Cook Strait ferry service provider, Great Journeys of New Zealand (the Interislander), and fast-growing South Island fuel supplier, the McKeown Group.
However, the Association’s leadership has also been very aware of protecting members’ interests and the culture of the club. For that reason, two possible sources of income were knocked back by the Board. They were: The proposed installation of a Spark cell phone tower on the NZMCA Park in Coromandel; and a proposal to sell sponsorship in NZMCA Parks. While both proposals offered a distinct revenue benefit, the Board decided they weren’t in keeping with the majority of the memberships’ best interests.
Audit and Risk Committee
The Board formally established an Audit and Risk Committee and appointed Treasurer Arthur Keane, Vice President Ross Hamilton and Board member Brian Stanley into the role. To consist of three Board members that have the appropriate skill sets to carry out the specific functions of an Audit and Risk Committee, future appointments to the Committee will be reviewed annually at the first Board meeting following the Annual General Meeting. The Association’s President is not eligible to be a member of the Committee, which has the power to second non-Board members onto it when specialist skills are required that are not available within the elected Board members.
The duties and functions of the Committee include general oversight of: Board performance; Constitution and constitutional matters; Association financial matters; External auditors; Organisational risks; and short notice urgent governance actions taken outside of Board meetings. The Board has also formalised the ability to establish an Emergency Committee – which may include the President and CEO – to handle urgent or confidential matters as required.
Two appointments made
During the year the Board formally confirmed the appointment of two members to significant new roles within the Association. One of them, whose name will not be made public, was appointed to the new position of the Club’s Complaints Officer. Given some disappointing issues during the year (i.e. the banning of dogs from the Ardmore Park and the loss of members’ Clubs NZ rights) the appointment was a clear indication that the Board intends to clamp down on the unacceptable behaviour of the unruly few who are spoiling things for the vast majority of the membership, who play by the rules.
The Board also approved a complaints process, the details of which are available to members on the website. The second appointment was of Deborah Bradley to another new position – the club’s Health & Safety Officer. In this role, Deborah oversees all aspects of the increasingly important health and safety issues around the club’s activities.
In the past year we have worked closely with our insurance partner – Covi NZMCA Insurance – to encourage members to reduce unnecessary claims. This initiative followed Covi’s analysis of claims which highlighted two areas where members could take action. Firstly, they identified that the single biggest source of claims was vehicles hitting static objects. As a result, we commissioned a driver training video that’s designed to help our members better protect their vehicles, particularly during backing and parking manoeuvres.
Covi also recognised that members were being caught out by uncontrollable events – i.e. weather bombs – which were destroying awnings or resulting in falling tree damage to vehicles. So members are now being given advance warning of approaching bad weather via the NZMCA Travel App.
Area and SIGS Chairs’ Meetings
In mid-July North and South Island Area and Special Interest Group Chairs were invited to attend one-day meetings to discuss ideas for the future direction of the Area Committees and SIGS. One of the most important points to come out of the sessions was the opportunity we have to grow our volunteer base by ‘sharing the load’ outside the formal Committee structure which has been the backbone of our Areas for so long.
That means understanding that just as the majority of new members have made it clear they are not attracted by the traditional structure of rallies; equally many are not interested in taking on the commitment to meetings etc of a Committee role. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to help. They do – but in less formal way.
So, we need to find ways that allow them to do that while giving them the ‘safety net’ of knowing that helping out won’t lead to them inevitably ending up on a Committee with the responsibilities they see that entailing.
Strong financial performance
The Association’s audited consolidated financial statements for the year (which ended September 30, 2018) reflect our strong financial position. Members’ funds grew by $2.022m for the year and are now sitting at $287 per member.
The operational performance for the year was $503,000 ahead of budget – mainly due to higher than expected membership growth, increased commissions from the Association’s commercial partners and additional revenue generated by the increased number of NZMCA Park properties.
Revising the constitution and bylaws
A Board-appointed Constitution Review Project Team – made up of Board members Brian Stanley and Ross Hamilton and suitably qualified members, Deborah Bradley, Peter Fantham, Judy Drake, Nigel Mead and John Hannan – worked hard during the year to draft a revised contemporary constitution for the Association. The catalyst for the initiative was to ensure the NZMCA has a constitution that not only complies with the new Incorporated Societies Bill but also matches the governance environment that the Board now operates in. The end goal is to ensure the constitution better meets the needs of the organisation (and its members) as it is today.
During the year the team’s task expanded to include revising the bylaws which sit alongside the constitution. An important aspect of the project team’s approach has been their determination to seek and include member feedback on the revised documents. Each issue of The Motor Caravanner has included extensive updates on the team’s deliberations to ensure members have every opportunity to understand and comment on the new documents’ content and intent.
At present, version 14 of the draft constitution and version six of the draft bylaws are in front of members for their feedback before the final versions are put to members to vote on later this year.
Thanks to our volunteers
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of those special people who are the heart and soul of the NZMCA – our ‘army’ of enthusiastic volunteers. As a club, we are extremely fortunate (and probably unique) in having hundreds of volunteers who willingly give up their time and talents to ensure their fellow members can enjoy all the benefits of being a member of the NZMCA.
These good people serve in all levels of the organisation; on Area Committees, as Self- Containment Officers, developing, maintaining and overseeing our NZMCA Parks, as rally marshals at Events, on the Board, as advisors to the Board in specialist areas like NZTA, LPG or Electrical, the list goes on and on. To all our volunteers, please accept my heartfelt thanks.
I would also like to make special mention of two people who have given service to the Association above and beyond the ordinary. They are: Board member Neville Stirling – a leader of our Property Subcommittee – who has resigned; and Cathy Berry – our long-serving Club Affairs Manager who has been an integral part of our National Office team for most of the past decade. Thank-you both for your outstanding service to the NZMCA – we’re going to miss you.