In the early hours of Monday morning, southern residents of New Zealand were rocked by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Particularly hard hit was the area around Kaikoura, a town well known for its sea life viewing opportunities - whale watching, swimming with dolphins and diving with seals have all been popular activities here. Two people died in the quake (one from a heart attack) and many visitors and locals were left stranded after roads were cut off by landslides. Over the course of the week, all the people who wished to be evacuated have been, and while life hasn’t quite returned to normal, things are moving toward a more even keel.
The vast majority of people in Kaikoura at the time of the quake were overseas visitors, but far from being left to their own devices, local tourism operators have done their best to ease the evacuation process for tourists. Many visitors have been airlifted from the area, leaving behind their rental vehicles, which is likely to cause some headaches for rental suppliers who are keen to recover their vehicles as the busy summer season approaches.
Phil Wright, General Manager of Motorhome Republic said of the events around the quake, “I think one of the most pleasing aspects to see is how the community rallies in times such as these. It really showcases the Kiwi spirit, the generosity and hospitality of people who could be forgiven for thinking about themselves but instead go out of the way to ensure visitors are put at ease. These are the immeasurables in regards to tourism in New Zealand: sure there are some fantastic sights and activities but so much of the experience is enhanced by interaction with the local people and as a Kiwi that makes me proud of this place we call home.”
So what does this all mean for those planning a campervan rental tour of NZ and other prospective visitors to the country? For a start, there’s certainly no need to cancel your trip. The majority of the country was largely unaffected by the quake, though if you were intending to visit the South Island you might need to revise your plans a little. The east coast of the South Island is still recovering from Monday’s earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks, so if you were planning to visit Kaikoura and Christchurch, you’ll want to reconsider. The good news is that the island’s famed west coast is still in great shape for visitors, and this is where many of New Zealand’s most impressive coastal views lie. This Nelson to Dunedin itinerary can have you spotting seals, walking on glaciers, touring wineries, jumping out of airplanes and much more - all without coming near the areas seriously damaged by the quake.
Then of course there’s the North Island - Wellington, its most southerly city, suffered some damage to infrastructure but most of the island pretty much got off scot-free. If you’re not dead set on visiting the South Island (the North is less famous with overseas travellers but Kiwis know that it has just as many hidden gems) you might enjoy a round trip journey from Auckland, discovering the remote beaches of the Coromandel, the art deco architecture and world-class wineries around Napier and maybe even the hobbit-holes of Middle Earth’s Hobbiton in Matamata.
In short, although Monday’s quake might have you tweaking your itinerary a little, a motorhome rental trip across New Zealand will still allow you to experience this remarkable nation at its best.