Coronavirus: New Zealanders hardest hit by COVID-19 offered free Waihi holiday

Waihi beach.
Waihi beach. Photo credit: Getty

By Katie Todd of RNZ

More than 50 New Zealanders who endured a tough time during the COVID-19 lockdown are getting a free weekend of respite at Waihi Beach's two Top 10 Holiday Parks.

After the Waihi Beach and Beachhaven parks' owner Ian Smith put out the call for deserving nominees last month, more than 700 people put names forward.

Smith says recipients have come from around the North Island to stay in units or camp, including some who have brought family members or friends.

"A lot of them have lost jobs, a lot of them have been challenged with bereavements during the lockdown period, others are fighting terminal illnesses... there's a lot of different stories and all of them very personal," he said.

"Ringing and talking to people resulted in a lot of tears. People were just so grateful they burst into tears on the phone. They couldn't believe they'd been chosen to come and spend some time away."

He said about 25 of the holidaymakers were enjoying free lessons at the local surf school on Saturday, while others were relaxing in the parks' hot pools.

Smith had been inspired by a "lovely" email request from one of the guests, who said she had always wanted to try her hand at surfing.

"Then we will have outdoor chess tonight at both parks, and I've got the pizza oven running so people have the option to mingle a lot more and chat with one another, which will be lovely," he said.

"Some people are just doing their own thing, but certainly there's a lot of smiles."

The Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park is also hosting deserving South Island nominees for free this weekend.