A couple of tourists will be walking to the loo in future after an attempt to drive to a campground convenience in Puketi Forest went disastrously wrong.

The visitors from Wales had been staying at the Department of Conservation's Forest Pools campground in Forest Rd, off State Highway 1 west of Okaihau, when they decided to drive to the toilets about 8am on Thursday, possibly because of heavy rain. The toilets are about 300m up a narrow road from the main camping area.

Okaihau Fire Chief Andrew Graham said it appeared the van went too close to the edge of a slip and tumbled six metres into the Waipapa River.

The woman was unhurt but her male companion suffered multiple cuts and bruises. He was kept overnight at Bay of Islands Hospital for observation.


Both managed to get out of the van before emergency services arrived.

Mr Graham said the brigade gave the couple a place to shelter from the rain until the ambulance arrived. The two had recently arrived in New Zealand and had just bought the van.

DoC Bay of Islands area manager Rolien Elliot said driving to the toilets was discouraged because the road was narrow. However, each time bollards were placed across the road and warning signs erected, they were promptly removed by vandals.

Ms Elliot said Forest Pools was a lovely spot.

"We like the public to use it. It's just a shame a few people continue to vandalise the toilets and remove the bollards, putting other people at risk."

DoC was planning to build new toilets closer to the camping area so people would not feel compelled to drive. Due to proximity to the river, the new facilities would be dry vault toilets that could be pumped out rather than the current long drops. The toilets at Puketi Forest headquarters were also about to be replaced.

Forest Pools is a popular summer camping spot thanks to a series of swimming holes in the Waipapa River.