Waipatiki camp sale for the public - not the money

By Roger Moroney

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KUDOS: Bill and Anne Perry said money wasn't a factor in selling their Waipatiki Beach Holiday Park to council. PHOTO WARREN/BUCKLAND
KUDOS: Bill and Anne Perry said money wasn't a factor in selling their Waipatiki Beach Holiday Park to council. PHOTO WARREN/BUCKLAND

In terms of selling a property five years is a long time to achieve final settlement.

But for Bill and Anne Perry, in terms of retaining a fine slice of Kiwi holidaying and beach-going tradition, time did not really come into it.

The result they wanted was never going to be achieved overnight, given there were extensive political and bureaucratic ingredients to the recipe they devised to see the property remain in public hands.

A recipe to ensure the Waipatiki Beach Holiday Park, which they owned and which was a favourite summer spot for so many people, stayed that way - and not bulldozed or broken up as a real estate development site.

Time did not come into it - nor did money, as Mr Perry pointed out.

"We had a couple of developers come and see us and they said they would give us $6 million for the land - and we said no."

When he told someone about it they said he could have been set up for life had he taken the offer.

Or any of the other offers, for several million, which they had come their way over the past few years.

"We've had developers at us for years and while they may have built magnificent houses with great views where would the average family be able to go?"

So the offers were refused on the grounds of 72-year-old Mr Perry's deep-seated philosophy.

"This land of part of me...and it has to be for everyone."

So, importantly, while the holiday park is no longer in the hands of the Perry family, who have a history of ownership going back to 1910, it is not in private hands.

It is in public hands after a long purchase process which has seen it taken up by the Napier City Council, the Hastings District Council and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council with each contributing $300,000 to make the purchase.

They bought the land, the buildings and the business, with the ownership sitting with the regional council.

And that suits Mr Perry just fine.

They began negotiating with the local councils back in 2009 after having run the holiday park for 20 years - 20 years of hard work as during busy times of the year it was "twenty-four-seven".

Former Napier MP Chris Tremain worked for the couple as the facilitator, and Mr Perry kept in constant touch with Napier Mayor Bill Dalton, Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule, Fenton Wilson from the Hawke's Bay Regional Council and Hastings District councillor Tania Kerr who was also involved in the process.

For Mr Yule the result was one the region could embrace, as he said too many districts had lost "special" places which the public should be able to enjoy.

He paid tribute to the Perrys for embarking on the long road to attain a public purchase agreement so the land would remain accessible, and enjoyable, by locals and visitors alike.

"It would have been a great deal simpler for you if you had sold this land privately and there is no doubt you would have achieved a much greater price for it," Mr Yule said at the official handover last week.

His Napier counterpart Bill Dalton said the result, in keeping it available for the populace to enjoy, was "fantastic".

It took time, but it has been sealed and signed off.

"It was a long journey, put it that way," Mr Perry said.

But it was the journey they were determined to complete.

Now that they have they are comfortable.

"We might have cost ourselves a couple of million but it's not about that," Mr Perry said.

"It's great to see the families come here - to see people relax - there are parents coming here now who first came here as toddlers."

The land had been in the family since Mr Perry's grandmother drew a 404ha slice of it in a ballot draw and was developed into a farm, which Mr Perry, as a young man, would eventually work on for his grandfather.

"I first had the idea (for a holiday park) in 1958 when I was a teenager," he said.

"I was helping mustering at the time and I was up the hill and looked down at the beach - it was a great spot."

But like the eventual public sale outcome, it was a long journey getting there.

Most of the farm was sold in 1974 and was turned into forestry, with 28ha remaining.

So the farmwork eventually ceased and in the summer of 1989/90, some 30 years after he first visualised the potential of a holiday camp at the beach, he and Anne finally got it started.

It was modest to begin with but grew, along with the numbers of visitors.

"It was always my intention to establish a park for the public and that it would stay in public ownership.

"It is for the people of Hawke's Bay and the rest of the country, and international clients."

He said for people from places like central Germany the vista was almost unbelievable.

"And we had a guy from Manhattan arrive here and he got out of his car and just stood there looking."

Mr Perry asked if he could help him and the American visitor simply replied "wow...you are so lucky to live here".

In 2010, after 20 years running the holiday haven the couple wanted to slow down a little and while the land title stayed with the Perry family it was leased to a new owner.

"Ray runs the camp and he does a great job," Mr Perry said.

"And every time I go round there I still look around and go 'wow".

While the couple's son lives in Palmerston North and their daughter in Taradale, they will be staying put at Waipatiki, in fact they are back living in the cottage near the park where Bill was born.

"Back where I started," he said.

But while no longer involved in the running of the park he had not completely hung up the work shoes.

He is planning to create a private planting reserve on his property, to further embellish the area.

"We are very happy here - to look out to the sea - it is a very special place, but then I'm completely biased," he laughed.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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