When Bruce Lochore, boss of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, signed up his new caravan last week, he became member number 90,000 - and part of an explosion of Kiwis hitting the road.
Association membership has doubled in the past five years, says Lochore, recalling it was 43,000 when he took on the chief executive job nearly seven years ago.
He says baby boomers hitting retirement age and setting sail from their suburban lockups to explore their country are still the core of joiners, but in the past five years there's been big growth in family caravans.
"That's where the explosion has been – 30 per cent of our membership are now in caravans."
Many New Zealanders aged 50 and over grew up with caravans. As Lochore says, they're part of Kiwi culture and the Kiwi landscape.
But in the late 70s, then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon killed the caravan-building industry in New Zealand by imposing a luxury tax on them.
"For a long time not a lot of caravans were being made in New Zealand or being imported in. Then about eight or nine years ago we started to see more coming in from overseas – newer ones at a price point that's brought families back into this market," says Lochore.
"We're seeing families who experienced caravans as kids and want to give their kids the same experience."
He says these days the price of a "very good" used caravan can start at $30,000, while the dollars on a new model start ticking over at around $70,000.
The price of an ex-rental motorhome tends to start at $70,000, with new vehicles fetching $120,000 and skyward.
Association president Bruce Stanger says baby boomer members have been joined by "the next generation" - in part as families are priced out of beach community baches as developers buy up coastal land for multimillion-dollar homes.
A few members have made their motor campers permanent homes, he says, but most want the security of having a bricks and mortar home as well – "somewhere to go if things go bad" .
"Quite a few rent their homes out for a couple of years and go on the road to see the country."
Meanwhile, New Zealand towns and provinces are cashing in.
Lochore says the association's "motorhome friendly town programme" has a symbiotic relationship with town councils throughout New Zealand: they become a certified motorhome-friendly town, the association promotes the town to its members.
He says even the Government struggles to offer reliable figures on what income small towns gain from domestic motor caravan visitors. The association itself has given up surveying because it doubts the accuracy of past results. But he thinks it's safe to say from previous surveys that campers spend about $100 per day per person on a stopover visit.
The association, a non-profit body, has put a great deal of work into developing the motorhome-friendly programme. Lochore says it doesn't only benefit local economies and make members' explorations easier and more enjoyable, but importantly differentiates members from "problem freedom campers".
A condition of association membership is that vehicles must be certified as "self-contained" which means they have a proper toilet and drinkable water facility.
"We've separated ourselves and gone to great lengths to work with communities so they understand the difference between a responsible camper and a freedom camper.
"Our members were really concerned about that. The motorhome-friendly programme has been a big part of that – showing it's actually a benefit to the community not a burden."
To be certified motorhome-friendly, a town or community needs to have a bylaw consistent with the Freedom Camping Act, a public sewage "dump" station for travellers which also supplies drinkable water, and be large enough to offer medical facilities and shopping.
The association has marketed towns and their events on its websites to the value of $3.5m in the past five years at no cost to the communities, says Lochore.
In 2012 the programme had 11 motorhome friendly towns. Today there are 53.
The association itself owns and leases 43 sites for member travellers around New Zealand.
It also contributes $200,000 annually to councils to provide waste disposal facilities, supporting the work of the Government's Tourism Infrastructure Fund which backs responsible camping.
Working alongside Local Government NZ, a real partnership has grown between the association and local councils, says Lochore, who sits on the Government's new Responsible Camping Working Group.
"It's a genuine partnership which works on honesty, trust and delivering both ways for each other. It's a very successful model."
The association isn't the only camper club or organisation in the country, but it's the biggest, highly respected, and the only one to insist members have certified self-contained vehicles.
The joining fee is $130 and then it's $90 a year for both motorhome and caravan membership.
For this members get a raft of services from a discount on Cook Strait ferries, which Lochore says pays their joining fee in one trip, tailored insurance coverage and retailer discounts to free access to its "self-contained" certification service. Then there's its electronic travel directory – "our Bible" – showing everywhere in the country members can pull up, and the motorhome-friendly programme and website showing welcoming towns, attractions, upcoming events, national cycle trails, and an online events calendar.
With the leap in camper numbers on the road has come pressures on New Zealand infrastructure.
Stanger says a major squeeze on park-up space for members is why the association has been buying and leasing its own sites for a decade.
"Everyone likes the idea of being out there and stopping where you can but the reality is it's disappearing fast."
The association plans to buy and lease three or four properties a year and is working with councils on other solutions, he says.
"If they have a bit of land that's overgrown, we're happy to clear it and make something of it," he says.
Stanger's coy on the association's financials, but says it doesn't have debt.
"Everything we have, we own. We charge our members a minimal fee but we also have arrangements so that we get a percentage when our members use a business. Any extra we get, we invest in property."
A major computer system upgrade is under way.
Keeping up with growth of the sector is the association's biggest challenge, and conversely, being prepared if the economy slows, says Stanger.
"The economy's the biggest thing that hurts it. All indications are that it will slow down in the next few years. We'll just tag along with it and if it slows, we'll just slow our spending."
Lochore says another bonus for members is that the association has "a pass" with the Department of Conservation.
"We have a longstanding relationship with them and we do voluntary work within DoC [areas]. There's a natural connection there."
The chief executive also rolls up his sleeves for that voluntary work.
Lochore's about to saddle up his new caravan and head to Fox Glacier, where tonnes of rubbish and recycling has washed up on pristine West Coast beaches and river flats after an old landfill breached.
The association has put out an SOS to members to help clean up and Lochore will be there.