New Zealand families are getting in on an increasingly popular summer activity dubbed "gramping".

Gramping is the term given for young children and grandparents camping while the parents come and go according to their work demands.

Department of Conservation media advisor Leigh-Anne Wiig said it seemed to be happening more as parents often had to work and didn't have enough annual leave to cover the entire school holidays.

She said gramping had already taken off in Australia and tourism operators in New Zealand should start preparing for it.

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DOC services ranger Karen Ismay said three generations of families often camped together over summer in the Kauaeranga Valley in Thames.

One extended family returned to the valley each year. They were protective of their spot and did the same traditional activities, such as catching eels, on each visit.

According to DOC, there were eight camps to chose from at the Kauaeranga Valley. There was a lot of history in the valley with relics from kauri logging days.

Ms Ismay said gramping allowed families to keep traditions alive. Families sometimes took ownership of their spots, cleaned up rubbish and kept other campers in check.

Wairarapa senior ranger Hayden Barrett said generations came together at Holdsworth and Putangirua Pinnacles campsites over the Christmas and New Year period.

"It is something that does happen quite frequently at those more popular sites."

Mr Barrett said children and retirees would sometimes go on holiday early and get set up, then the parents would join them when they had finished work for the year.

He said gramping was an opportunity for parents and grandparents to pass on their knowledge of the bush to the younger generation.

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Northland DOC ranger Haina Tamehana said four generations sometimes camped together at Maitai Bay on the Karikari Peninsula.

One family, from Auckland, had been going to the camping ground for about 20 years and took up two of its "streets".

An initial group would come and set up the tents before the rest of the family arrived. They would stay for about five weeks. Ms Tamehana said some members of the family were teenagers when she starting working at the camping ground in 2004. Now they were bringing their own children.

"It's just really a privilege to watch." Ms Tamehana said camping was all about spending time with family and loved ones.

"That's what makes the camping ground during the summer, it's really neat to see."

Office for Senior Citizens director Sarah Clark said gramping allowed families to take advantage of national parks and heritage sites as well as see unique plants and animals. Grandparents could also share stories about growing up and how life in New Zealand had changed.

"I think it's a fantastic opportunity to mix the generations up in the great outdoors," she said.

Ms Clark said she had been camping with her children and parents. "There's magic in sharing time without all the technology and you get back to basics."

She said her parents were keen outdoors people and loved taking the children into the bush and telling them about how New Zealand had evolved and talking about the country's plants, pests and predators.

"In the context of protecting our heritage it's a really good way to open kids' eyes to the consequences of looking after our environment."

Extended families holidaying together could be cost effective and could mean parents could get a break while grandparents helped watch the children.

"I think it's an idea with huge potential and I'd really love to see it take off in New Zealand," said Ms Clark.

New Zealand had good base infrastructure for gramping but New Zealanders now needed to challenge some of the assumptions it had about older people and their capability and recognise the opportunity of gramping.

In 20 years, New Zealand would have 1.2 million people aged over 65.

"The reality is that we live in an age where we've never had so many people healthy at a greater age," said Ms Clark. People were more active and fit and wanted to be out and about.

Society was ageing and people needed to find ways for different generations to share experiences and learn from each other.

Ms Clark thought gramping also had potential to attract visitors from overseas. "There's also huge potential to develop this as a new sector within the tourism market."

- nzherald.co.nz