No Minister

Youth Hostels gone

In the Winter of 1983 I drove all over the South Island for three months, never having visited it before, and stayed in Youth Hostels most of the time. Good memories of the people I met there, mostly young foreigners.

The only YHA place I ever rejected was the Pigeon Bay one that sat on farmland in Banks Peninsula. Leaving a mate’s flat in Chch one afternoon for the hostel I steadily came under attack from one of the worst cases of the flu I ever experienced. By the time I’d climbed the hills out of Lyttelton, driving from sealed roads to gravel with grass up the middle, as a cold night fell, to find a darkened building in the middle of nowhere, no idea where to get the key from, and feeling as sick as a dog, I’d had enough. I scuttled back the long way around to the YHA in Chch, briefly disturbing a petrol station owner who had retired for the night and persuading him to start the pumps up.

The lovely folks at the Christchurch YHA yielded on their normal rules of not allowing people to stay during the day and allowed me to rest for two days beside a roaring wood fire in a pot belly stove while I read cheap, trashy novels and indulged in hot drinks and as much pseudoephedrine as I could cram into my system.

Which brings me to this news.

Youth Hostel Association to close its hostels after 89 years

The YHA said the extended Auckland lockdown and no prospects of an international visitors this summer left the association in an unsustainable financial position.

The 11 hostels owned by the association will close from 15 December 89 years of operation.

“YHA was looking forward to a bright future in 2019 having just opened a new hostel in Tekapo. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has just gone on too long for us to be able to ride it out”

The YHA should have been one of the strongest operators given that it had a very low cost structure, even with low-spending youth as their customers. If YHA is in this sort of trouble then it has to be concerning for the rest of the tourism industry.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 25, 2021 at 12:27 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Tom the village strikes again, that Pigeon Bay Hostel you skipped was one of Cora Wildings first efforts in her beginning of the NZ YHAs . The old Kukapa school near the junction of Pettigrews road and Pigeon Valley Road, that my mum attended for two years 1918/19, I have sighted the school rolls at a jubilee in the early noughts when my service club, Akaroa and Bays Lions ran the refreshments. Mums earlier education was at the Waiau school in North Canterbury when her Granddad John Pettigrew of Maryfields near the habour rim on Pettigrews Road, had her and her brother Jack (John) attend that local school to keep it open, to no avail though as Cora set up a YHA there soon after. Cora was a sister of Anthony Wilding?


    November 25, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    • Ha!. Well looking at good old Google Maps I’m guessing that after I drove around the harbour I went into the hills via Diamond Harbour
      -> Port Levy-Purau Road
      -> Fernlea Road
      -> Pa Road
      -> Port Levy-Pigeon Bay Road (NOT on Google streetview 🙂 )
      -> Holmes Bay Road
      -> Pigeon Bay Road

      But I don’t recall anything as obvious as that entrance. My memory is that it was just a farm gate with a house dimly observed on the paddock up a slight rise.

      Had there been a light on I would have gone in, but given the state I was in I just said, stuff it and headed for H75 and Chch. A good decision in hindsight. I would not have liked to have stayed there alone and crook.

      Tom Hunter

      November 25, 2021 at 3:44 pm

  2. Well perhaps if the National Party of New Zealand had not been asleep at the wheel, and populated by utterly banal women who are at heart shrinking violets and get the fucking vapours when they overhear men talking about how to conceive a girl with their feelings still hurting 5 fucking years later then they would have been calling Labour out from the get go

    But they didn’t and here we are – it is not as though this was unpredictable and has/is being repeated in all sorts of lower profile businesses across the land

    It is hard to imagine a more woeful bunch of MPs than the current National Party Caucus who don’t seem to stand for anything at all and have less substance than candy floss and National Party Memebers should be hanging their heads in shame


    November 25, 2021 at 1:20 pm

  3. Very sad news. I travelled around the South island for two weeks in 1985 on a motorbike, staying at YHA’s all the way around. In those days, there was no other cheap accommodation around.

    To keep the costs down, there was a roster of chores to be done by the guests who were staying. It was very rare in those days to meet another Kiwi staying there. It was mostly Germans, English, Swiss, etc.

    After 1990, Backpacker Hostels became popular & several other Backpacker chains started up in competition to them.. YHA had to get commercialised to stay competitive.

    I still have a life membership card somewhere, and the YHA book that got a stamp, everywhere you stayed.


    November 25, 2021 at 2:36 pm

  4. And here’s some history on the New Zealand YHA. I’m a bit surprised by this bit:


    YHA New Zealand has 27 hostels – 15 on Banks Peninsula and 12 on the West Coast.

    That seems like overkill for Banks but then I suppose the distances that could be covered in a day were much less given fewer cars and gravel roads for bikes.

    Tom Hunter

    November 25, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    • Most were hitchhiker’s in those days, the roads would have been gravel, and cars were few and far between. Just getting to Christchurch in those days would have been a big deal.


      November 26, 2021 at 4:49 am

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