For Maxine and Colin Hansen, living the retirement dream is all about the freedom to roam in their campervan while staying at campsites for free as volunteer hosts.
The Hansens joined the Department of Conservation’s (Doc) volunteer camp host programme last summer.
Their main job is to collect camp fees on behalf of Doc. They also help keep the campsites clean and tidy, and generally keep an eye on things.
With Mr Hansen being a retired prison officer, policeman and boat builder, campers were sure to stick with Doc rules on their watch.
But there was also plenty of room for fun, Mrs Hansen, a retired registered nurse, said.
One of the laughs they had last summer happened when a camper pulled out his tent pegs to find he had tapped through one of the pipes, creating a surprise fountain on site.
It was this kind of thing they reported to Doc so repairs could be done.
Besides collecting camp fees, the couple kept on top of the toilet cleaning, something appreciated by campers, she said.
They also helped people with local communication idiosyncracies at Waihi, telling them to walk up the road to the third tree to get reception. That was also where they made their regular check-in calls to Doc.
The Hansens, of Tauranga, have been travelling the South Island for several months. They were recruited by Doc’s Geraldine-Raukapuka office recreation supervisor, Chris Dyson, during a visit to Waihi Gorge last year.
They spent several weeks as wardens at Waihi, and since then have stayed at other Doc campsites, where they keep the toilets clean.
The Hansens will be on duty again this coming summer at Waihi Gorge, and will also be wardens at the Pioneer Park campsite inland between Geraldine and Fairlie, and the Glencoe campsite near Moeraki.
Mr Dyson said volunteer wardens took a lot of pressure off Doc during the busy summer season and as wardens were able to camp for free. It was a win-win situation.
With the programme expanding to include Pioneer Park and Glencoe, Doc was looking for more volunteers to join the roster, he said.
Every October to April, people can volunteer for a week or more.
Anyone interested in joining the roster can fill in an application form on the Doc website – doc.govt.nz/get-involved/volunteer/latest/.