Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Council investigates campground manager over 'bring bubbly' offer

Photo / iStock
Photo / iStock

A campground manager who offered Hobbiton-bound tourists free accommodation in return for alcohol is under investigation by his employer.

Matamata-Piako mayor Jan Barnes told the Weekend Herald she was concerned at a series of social media posts made by Matamata Aerodrome camping ground manager Bevan Haimona offering a free stay if guests brought "a bottle of bubbly" or "get drunk".

The council owns the campground but Mr Haimona said his offer was for his home, not the campground.

The posts were made on the "Backpackers alone in New Zealand" Facebook group's page.

One of the posts reads: "Just putting it out there if any backpackers need sum where FREE YES FREE to stay this Friday pm me. I live on the Matamata aerodrome i Manage the matamata aerodrome campsite. All I ask in return is that u have drinks with me and get drunk lol [sic]".

He also responded to a woman's post on the page asking for a lift from Auckland to Matamata.

"If use need sum accomodation I manage a camspite ... can do u are free nite for a bottle ov bubbly got everything here to accomodate use [sic]."

Mr Haimoma told the Weekend Herald the accommodation offers were to stay at his home on at the aerodrome - not at the council-owned camping ground.

But Mrs Barnes said she was concerned by the offers, particularly given the area was a tourist hub.

The council would investigate, she said.

"Whether we had tourists or not, if it is deemed that we do have a issue, of course we are very concerned," she said. "This is not what we would be wanting for the district."

The Matamata region has become a tourism centre, with Hobbiton attracting 460,000 visitors a year and in peak summer months tours of the movie set run every 10 minutes.

About 160,000 international holiday visitors or 18 per cent last year cited The Hobbit trilogy as the reason for their initial interest in New Zealand.

Mr Haimona confirmed council officials had already spoken to him about his online posts.

"My bosses say 'You've got to be careful Bevan', that can be my downfall sometimes. It's my job and I like to help people."

He described his offers as "just Kiwi hospitality".

"All I said was that I manage the campsite, and could get them free accommodation," he said.

"I want to help tourists that come here with not much money. I told them I'd put up the couch and they can crash there, that I can help them out, we can share a bottle of bubbly, that sort of thing. That's just Kiwi hospitality."

He accepted he should have been more specific with his Facebook post that he was talking about his property and not the campsite.

- NZ Herald

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