In this Open Letter to NZMCA (that’s NZ’s Motorhome organisation), I present my take on the challenges that they have as a ‘club’ from 50 years ago moving into a modern business world. I’m sure the President and his team have good advice and will do the right thing, well I hope so for their sake! This post is ‘IMHO’. I hope that he’s interested enough to read it. Comments in [square brackets] are directed to a general readership. NZMCA comments are copyright to the NZMCA and used without permission under the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act. Enjoy!
NZMCA President Bruce Stanger
I have just received a summary of your latest Board Meeting held in Masterton, 10/2/2018 entitled: “February 2018 NZMCA Board Meeting Report”. Thank you.
I quote some sections of your report for completeness and pass commentary.
For much of the meeting the Board, with considerable input from the members present, grappled with issues arising from the ‘explosion’ in the number of non-Self Contained vehicles which has put freedom camping under the spotlight again this summer.
[For The Record, I am member No 67956 and I understand that membership growth has continued at a fantastic pace since my joining in Q4, 2016.]
Topics covered included: extending the temporary restriction on membership to New Zealand residents only; considering whether NZMCA testing officers should be able to charge for their services; and implementing a stay on the certification of people mover/passenger car conversions under the NZMCA’s CSC programme.
[CSC is short for ‘Certified Self Containment’, basically getting a blue sticker that shows that the Housetruck, Caravan or Motorhome complies with the new regulations – crudely put, that it has a toilet onboard. This is THE greatest value that NZMCA membership offers to new members, hence the current pressure on these guys as every man and his dog wants to join up, get their car certified and do their big NZ OE trip!]
… the Board’s recent decision to limit its membership temporarily to New Zealand residents only was implemented to protect the organisation’s reputation and the integrity of the Certified Self-Containment Standard.
… the Board’s decision late last year to stop providing CSC checks to non-members had resulted in significantly more overseas visitors looking to join the Association to get around the ban.
“They were joining just so they could get CSC – they had no intention of being true members and our reputation was being tarnished.”
“We need to ask ourselves, who are we here to service? I believe the decision needs to be about our memberships’ needs.”
On CSC & volunteering:
… in November/December 2017, SCOs carried out some 2565 checks – an increase of 727 on the same period last year.
In such an environment it was proving ‘almost impossible’ to encourage more members to volunteer as SCOs, said Board member Pete Willcox. However, Board members were very conscious that the proposal also struck at the very heart of the club’s membership volunteer ethos.
“Once you start paying one segment of our volunteers, where does it stop?” asked Bruce Stanger. “We need to look carefully at the impact this could have on Area Committees and the whole culture of the club …”
On People Movers
… over the past two years, the proliferation of small, budget passenger cars converted into self-contained vehicles – by both international visitors and New Zealanders – had created many problems across the country.
“Following our own observations, including feedback from experienced testing officers, members, local authorities and communities nationwide, these vehicles are not living up to everyone’s initial expectations insofar as the usability of the toilet is concerned.
“The NZMCA has tried to work constructively with visitors travelling in small vehicle conversions. Unfortunately, in many cases the owners of people movers were more interested in the certification documents, rather than understanding the philosophy behind self-containment that underpins the purpose of the Standard.”
James’ report went on to state: “Continuing to certify people movers will further compromise the credibility of the NZ Standard.” In the following discussion both Board members and members stressed how important it was in the ongoing battle to retain the right to freedom camp that the NZMCA maintained the credibility of the Standard.
In fact, a suggestion that serious consideration needed to be given to raising it further – perhaps by the NZMCA creating our own higher Standard for members.
The NZMCA is able to do this because while the existing Standard sets the minimum level of compliance, there is nothing to stop us going beyond that to further differentiate our members from irresponsible travellers in non-CSC vehicles.
[And there you have the issues the Board were discussing . . . meaty, to say the least!]
Bruce, I understand the basics of your challenges – ones that have arisen from a huge growth in membership of NZMCA which has in turn resulted from a surge in New Zealand as a destination for freedom camping. But the issue I wish to draw to your attention is the conceptual, or strategic one of the nature and shape of NZMCA as a ‘club’.
The best way for you to understand this issue from my perspective is to listen to me talk, a little tongue-in-cheek and probably a little more aggressively than I would if it was in person, about my situation and how I view NZMCA as a relatively new member [Number 67956 out of 79084 representing over 40,000 memberships to be more precise].
Basically, I just don’t understand the ‘club’ thing, sorry.
I joined NZMCA because there was a good commercial reason to – you told me via your marketing materials that you had special deals with your own park-over sites, a [secret] valuable directory listing sites that I could stay at, petrol discounts, DOC discounts, Internet deals, insurance deals and you gave me plenty of good reasons for me to pay the entry fee and annual subs.
You did it well; I bought the line and have been a happy member, thank you. I agreed to CSC certify my newly converted/upgraded Housetruck and have gone through this process (almost) to completion. You are going great guns with membership sales it seems. Good on ya! I see a heap of the NZMCA wings when on the road. I’ve heard nothing negative about the ‘club’ and intend to attend my first Friendly Town event next month – simply because one of your events is to be held in the town where I reside. You guys answer the phones when I call, update things, email me things and post me things, and keep me well informed of wassup – thank you!
So this is all great . . . but Bruce, this is a business, not a club. I still don’t understand the ‘club’ thing!
Now, sure, I know what a club is. I understand that some years ago the club would have had smaller fees and has likely done great things and gotten started and built through its volunteers but with 40k members paying you a bucketload of cash and in the modern day and age? Nope . . . the world has moved on from there, Bruce.
Specifically, with the challenges you face, for me, it goes like this . . . I’m happy to pay something to have wings on my truck and get the directory and services you offer. I don’t want to pay for my CSC examination and certificate. I expect it to be free for me, but there’s only one reason for this . . . you told me that it would be. It is a clear stated financial benefit of my NZMCA membership.
But, if I was in the USA, EU, the UK or AU I’d expect to pay for it – probably a fee for the initial examination and a separate fee for a renewal and even a fee for the sticker itself to be quite honest! I’m used to paying for what I want. I’m used to business – even from councils or the government. I want something; I am trained to pay for it.
I go to VTNZ, pay them and if my vehicle complies with the regulations I get my sticker. What’s that got to do with a CSC, a ‘club’ and any reputation?
This issue strikes at the heart of NZMCA’s structure and purpose. Your commenters above talk about waffly stuff that I don’t understand:
to protect the organisation’s reputation [Umm?!] and the integrity …
being true members [WTF is a “true member”?] and our reputation was being tarnished [Arr?] …
encourage more members to volunteer [Well I think I can understand that!] …
club’s membership volunteer ethos [Ummmm?!] …
the whole culture of the club [OK, I admit, I did join a ‘club’ but my ‘culture’ differs from yours it seems]
understanding the philosophy … that underpins the purpose of the Standard [OK, OK, Ewan Me are on different pages here!]
Bruce, let me direct here . . . I’m a nice guy, kind and generous, willing to help anybody, anywhere I can, but essentially I’m selfish and it is 2018. I’m a businessman and I entered into a business contract with NZMCA. I join. You give me value that I wanted. There is no “understanding the philosophy” behind the CSC thing, sorry.
So, that’s a little brutal but that’s the reason why people want to join the club – WIIFM rules the day.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, the thing that the Board will need to address in the coming years is how they will cope with this tension so that they take the thing forward constructively. The way I see it, there are three options:
- You struggle on as a club trying to be a business;
- You transition to a business model from the club one; or
- You split the two.
The salient facts that your strategic team I am sure will accept are:
- This is a growth industry with likely continued growth;
- The club model conflicts with a business model;
- There is money to be made.
My take is that people with deeper pockets than yours will have been eyeing this opportunity and that you could have serious commercial competition in short order – yes, you are the incumbent, and yes, you appear to be doing it well, but so too was Telecom, sorry to dredge up the past and compare you two like that!
If I was advising any challenger on how to set up shop, I’d be offering my own CSC certificate on a commercial basis and flag the membership/club thing. All other easy services such as insurance, information and support would be 100% digital and mostly automated. With no legacy issues (as you currently have), your core business would be cherry-picked and you would need to be in defensive mode. Far better to pre-empt and retain the monopoly that you currently have methinks
I think you get my drift.
I trust that you take this communication in the way that it is intended – to help.
Dennis A. Smith
[Happy] NZMCA Member
15 February 2018
[There are a few things that don’t make sense to me . . . why is a ‘club’ issuing CSC certificates at all? Every six months I take my house truck down to VTNZ, pay my fees and they go over it with a fine tooth comb. Any deviancy from regulatory requirements and I’m not allowed to drive it on the road. Easy. Money things are self-regulating – I pay for something I want/need. VTNZ and the authorities both get a slice of the action. The CSC rules are pretty simple really. Not sure why one has to be a member of NZMCA to get a blue sticker! Just pushes the overseas tourists into the grey market if you ask me!
And the other thing . . . why is a ‘club’ expecting their inspectors to donate their time? The club makes money off the CSC ‘monopoly’ then uses their volunteers . . . nah, that’s just WRONG! Who gives a rat’s behind about the past and the ‘club’ ethos thing.
So for the uninitiated this is the situation – more backpackers wanting the freedom camping experience – great for them and NZ. Not so for Kiwis it seems! Rules were brought in to control the influx of car boot travellers without toilets – fair enough. Then the certifiers came under pressure and killed certifying without membership. Then they killed overseas memberships because the punters started joining up to get the CSC certificate. Now it’s a 2 year ban on overseas memberships and the pressure will be even more horrendous. I teach that a problem is an opportunity. The bigger the problem the bigger the opportunity. A huge problem = a business!
Unless these guys get their act together fast, they’re going to lose it all. You can plug a hole here and there, but if the pressure builds, she’ll blow!
Thanks for reading!]