Traditionally I use my summer road trip to find new tourism travesties to rant about – this year of course is no different. Recently we visited Tane Mahuta, the largest known Kauri tree remaining alive in the world. Tane Mahuta is situated in Waipoua forest, an incredible example of old growth native forest that is a source of pride for New Zealand.

We decided to take a short walk to see some other massive Kauri examples so pulled up to the Department of Conservation car park only to be greeted by a semi-toothless local bearing the sign below;

Yes it seems this entrepreneurial chap, with the support of our very own Conservation Department, had decided to set up a protection racket charging unwary tourists $2 to “protect” their vehicles while they partook of a short walk in the forest.

Now I’ve spent a fair amount of time in DOC sites from the Northernmost to the (almost) Southernmost, this is the first time I’ve seen such a racket, more at home in India or Egypt than New Zealand where we pride ourselves of being open and honest – “baksheesh” (for this is surely what this guy was charging) is an unknown concept here.

So I could only come up with two possible conclusions:

  1. Some underpaid minor official in the Department of Conservation is supplementing his meager income by allowing this chap to run his scam. A scenario I find unlikely or,
  2. This guy has somehow managed to evade the usually rigorous check of the Department and has made up these signs in an impressive, but illicit piece of fraud.

So… which is it? Over to you DOC

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • This is a big problem back in South Africa too. It started off with good intentions, but then if you didn’t pay the ‘security guards’ you would probably come back to a dented or keyed-car, or a smashed window.
    But this seems a bit out-of-place in a well-known, NZ tourist attraction. I really hope that DOC haven’t officially agreed to this.

  • Maybe I’m wrong, but my current guess is an unauthorised entrepreneur. Did you happen to ask him for any official ID?

    I was there less than a year ago and don’t remember this at all, though perhaps we missed it. DOCs Tane Mahuta page also makes no mention of vehicle security.

  • Didn’t ask him for any ID – he was a big boy and I was a little scared! No response from DoC yet

  • Hi Ben.

    If he was an “identified attendant” as the sign suggested, especially one supposed to be taking money on behalf of DOC, you’d sort of expect him to be wearing some kind of DOC uniform or obvious identification. DOC certainly doesn’t seem to have a shortage of those uniforms they hand out to their staff.

    From the way you’ve described it, my guess is he’s either a con artist (perhaps he nicked the sign from somewhere else), or that someone at DOC hasn’t thought things through.

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