Taranaki Swiss Club Rally, Kaponga, 28-30 October, 2016

Congratulations to the Taranaki team of Autotrail motorhomers for organising a very successful rally. The team comprised: Lisette & Rudi Benkert, Audrey & Trevor Coleman, Rob & Ann Coutanche, Raewyn & David Lusk and Margaret & Jim Ward.


Held over the weekend of 28-30 October, 2016 at the Taranaki Swiss Club in Kaponga, 48 vans (85 members) arrived, most by Friday evening.  Planned to coincide with the popular Taranaki Garden Festival, several members stayed on after the rally to enjoy a variety of garden visits.


Friday was a time to arrive, park up in the extensive grass area surrounding the c lubrooms, register and meet, greet and socialise.  The long rows of Autotrails parked was impressive.


Swiss entertainment Friday evening set the scene for a very enjoyable rally. Rudi and Lisette Benkert talked about the early arrival of Swiss settlers to Taranaki, the formation of the Swiss Cub (one of five in NZ) and how, with considerable local support, the Clubrooms were built.  The Club keeps many  Swiss traditions alive including music, shooting (very popular),  games (especially 9 pin bowling), cuisine and costumes.  They have two shooting ranges, one at the Club and another further up the mountain – the Swiss Army provides the ammunition!


We were then entertained by the Club’s singing group, backed by three accordion players – a very polished performance.  A large Swiss horn was assembled and played by an accomplished horn blower.  A few others tried with varying degrees of success and one an absolute failure –me!


Saturday morning dawned  with sunshine and a picture postcard view of Mt Taranaki.  After morning tea (delicious home baking provided by the organising team) discussions were held on our website, RV Explorer, a proposal to establish a Facebook group and mobile internet.  Outcomes from the discussions were;


Autotrailusers website:

1.       More subcategories in the forum will be set up to make it easier to look up a particular subject area

2.       A ‘Girl Talk’ category will be added to the forum for helpful  inside the van ideas

3.       Registration problems usually stem from the ‘full Name’ box not being filled in properly and email addresses not being entered or entered correctly

4.       The forum is being well used, however members could make better use by using the search facility and registering to have email notification of new forum postings.


RV Explorer:

1.       Chris Gaelic briefly explained the content and objectives of creating RV Explorer; it differs from other similar RV touring sites in that it identifies places both off and on  the beaten tracks and for all stop overs it gives both positive and negative features, plus photos.

2.       Over 1300 locations are listed – very comprehensive for the North Island.

3.       Its free to use - just need to register.

4.       Next improvement is to have a mobile app.



1.       A Facebook page for NZ Autotrailers  was suggested last year at the Levin Rally however nothing eventuated.  This year, just prior to the rally, Russell Lowther offered to set up a closed group. After much discussion and warnings about privacy breaches etc, members present agreed to accept Russell’s offer with the proviso that it be carefully monitored.

2.       Sandy Dougherty offered to assist with administration.


Mobile Internet:

1.       Les Gibson commented on how good Netspeed was for internet use in motorhomes.

2.       Netspeed offers 120 GB per month (+50 GB offpeak) for $100/month

3.       Download speeds are 40 Mbps  or better

4.       This compares well with the NZMCA option


After lunch, next on the programme was a trip down memory lane with a visit to a nearby vintage car collection owned by Roy King.  Here, tucked away in little Kaponga, is a gem for classic car and unusual vehicle enthusiasts.  Besides a wide range of old vehicles (some quite rare), bikes, motorized wheelchairs and memorabilia is an extensive collection of parts for sale.


A few members finished the afternoon playing ’beetle’ games in the clubrooms while others had ‘nana-naps’ or shared fixes or modifications to their vans.


A short walk to the Kaponga Hotel for happy hour and our Rally Dinner was completed Saturday’sactivities. The hotel turned on a superb smorgasbord meal, accommodating us all by closing off the bar area for our event.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the evening – thank you Kaponga Hotel; your hospitality was A+++.  Two prizes (A Glaze cleaners donated by Auckland Motorhomes) were drawn

after the dinner and were won by David and Gale Smith (furthest travelled - they flew back from Melbourne the evening before they left their home, in Kamo to come to the rally) and Alan and Barbara Lupton, Warkworth (lucky van draw). (The raffle draws were left for Sunday.)


Sunday morning began with the ‘Tech Session’ (see separate report) at 9.30 with a break for morning tea and raffle draws.  The raffle was a great success, with 11 donated prize draws plus 6 extra money draws. Thank you Taranaki team, Taranaki RV and Lynda Brown (Nutrimetics) for your generous prize donations. The raffle allowed the committee to cover all additional Club running costs, keep a float for the next rally and make a generous donation to the Taranaki Swiss Club in appreciation for their hospitality and entertainment.


Last on the programme was a Club meeting (see separate report); no issues to discuss other than the next rally venue.  Offers have come from Hawkes Bay for 2018 and Northland for next year.  It was agreed to hold it over the weekend following Labour Weekend ie 27 – 29th October 2017.


The Taranaki organising team were thanked (with loud acclamation) for a most successful, enjoyable, informative and entertaining rally.


Sadly, two days later, on Tuesday 1 November, one of the Taranaki Team, Rob Coutanche, was tragically killed in a road accident.  Our sincere sympathy, love and remembrance go to Ann and her family.  A tragic huge of a kind, generous and fun-loving person, taken from us all too soon.

Technical Session, Autotrail Rally, Taranaki, 30 October 2016


Recorded by Sandy Dougherty, Chaired and final report by David Buxton.


Les Gibson

Truma CP plus panel – there is a firmware update that you may not have - in ‘settings’, if the firmware says 01 you have the latest version.


Security - ladders on the back mean security compromised - helps the thieves to break in.


Water – getting onto engine management sensors. Euro 4 don’t get these problems, however from Euro 5 onwards there are considerable problems – and with few Fiat dealers in NZ often means difficult access for help.


ABS brakes on earlier models of the Fiat X250 chassis (most of our vans are on this chassis) – drain hose from scuttle (under windscreen) drips straight onto the ABS brake electrics.  Can also be affected by water entering the engine compartment; Les has a fix for this – shift drain outlet.


Autel scanner - Les has one; it scans the computer in the engine and identifies problems. $160 on TradeMe.


Moisture tester - available on TradeMe for approx $100.


Scuttle leak - the join in the X250 can be sealed with Euro bond product - seam tape (very expensive but excellent) -  don't use silicon as it soon breaks apart.


Glen Newman

Has a thermal imaging camera - will do this for free to look for moisture issues.


Peter Robieson

Satellite TV - often getting scrambled reception with Sky on his Avtex TV - Marion suggested that Oscar at RSE might be able to fix that. Apollo are the importers of Avtex  - TV channels have altered and the sky card needs to go back to the main sky decoder at home for upgrading.

Miles and Roger said that Oscar is very good at overcoming that problem.  Les said similar problems have been with Freeview channels. David has had good service from Apollo with instructions to update channels so Prime works again. RSE has good instructions on their website for units they install in motorhomes.


Rob Coutanche

Safety locking at night. Suggests put step out after you have locked so you have a step should you need to rush out at night. Can use the key to unlock leisure door after locking which leaves front doors locked.  


Suggests practice changing a wheel - a bottle jack is much better than the scissor jack in van.  Another suggestion - use a reinforcing rod to take the weight off  the wheel -poke it in the top hole of the hub, hang the wheel on that rod and lever it into place.  Can get a gadget from Repco to undo the nuts which can be impossible to undo with the wrench in the van’s tool kit; 'Tire Torq' – a small tool which is gear ratioed, simple and quite small.


David Smith

Wheels should be tightened to torque setting of 180 newton metres. At the garage or tyre firm, make sure they are tightened with a torque wrench as otherwise they can be overtightened. Can also use a torque stick on a rattle gun.


Suggests that that when changing tyres use a hi-vis vest and use second person to wave at traffic, could also use little cones and collapsible reflector triangles which are available at Mitre 10- or - consider driving to safe place and take care of your life!



Glen Newman has an electric jack/electric torque wrench bought on Trademe  for approx. $170 - use on any vehicle 12v Jackazz brand name - possible that rear cigarette lighter wiring is too light to run this, if that’s the case then use the cab cigarette lighter


Roger Handisides - has made cup holder which hooks on to top shelf of cab door. He has some for sale $15 landed – tip, don't shut the door with a cup in place!


Ian Given

Doorstop for leisure door - some are quite long and stick out - shorter version costs $18, can be colour matched and fit on the skirt.  Available from Supreme Lock and Hardware in Tauranga.


Chris Gaelic

Needed roadside assistance – Covi wouldn’t cover tow charges so he called AA - they arrived but required him to have AA Plus. Fortunately they allowed an instant upgrade and transported the van to a dealer.   AA plus covers motorhomes up to 5 tonnes and costs an extra $75 on top of normal AA membership – well worthwhile.


Peter Geuriltis

Front screen/radio/bluetooth/GPS - has problem with his in 2012 van - various aspects not working on it - looking for help – suggestion that Oscar at RSE might sort this out. (replacement units are available online at a cost much cheaper than genuine part. Also much better – see Technical session report for earlier rally –ed)


Fred Kalin

TV - lost satellite connection - co-ax broke due to TV monitor being dropped down repetitively- replaced cable with a more flexible type of co-ax.


David Buxton

Emergency jump start and USB power bank - Powerall Deluxe - portable power bank battery jump start – also comes with a flashlight and 2 USB ports for charging phones etc. (This made Sandy happy!)  Purchased at Torpedo 7 on special but available at Repco and Super Cheap - 400 amp. Les says 1600 amp model now available and much better. Can be charged from mains adaptor or cigarette socket - has a display to show charge.


Smart charging batteries not always ‘smart’. He went overseas for 3 months and assumed the solar panel would keep both batteries charged – not so.  Came back to find leisure battery flat as system had switched permanently to vehicle battery despite solar charging set to ‘Smart’.  David has put this info on the AT forum. Trevor said to reset system by turning whole system off with small black button on the side of main electrical unit in cupboard.


Trevor Coleman

Wiper blades available from Super Cheap ; they have done lots of research and have a good range of blades - fitted $91 - more information available on the forum.  Someone commented that one can get just the blades for $11, the blades can be pulled apart and new ones can be fitted into the housing.


Denis Bradley

Fridges - Dometic  should have an external exhaust and many ATs don't have it. It gets stained on the outside; it’s required in NZ, chuck away the 'salt shaker' like a mesh filter. Another fridge issue -  if the light comes on and flashes, this could be due to condensation in the switch and causing the door open alarm to activate. Dry it out. Can use a moisture spray from Jacar. The wiring is open.


Allan Linn – his gas detector seemed to interfere with fridge not automatically switching over from 12V when engine stopped -watch that fridge turns over to gas when engine stopped – several felt that the gas detector shouldn't or couldn’t do this.


A few quick comments before session closed:


Kathy Swindell recommends Tony Dodd -021 281 2449 -  great for anything electrical, lives in his van, mostly north island. Very approachable and knowledgeable


Les suggests that when extra solar panels are installed they are kept separate from the original solar controller.


Peter Johnson says the engineer at Ohinewai is OK for towbars and seatbelts - he certifies them for COF - 0274 874 287.


Les -Taranaki RV makes 'bloody' marvelous steps for the cab.


Rob – local NZMCA  ran driving lessons for wives/partners – great idea.


Chris Gaelic - waterproofing the engine - there is a great opportunity for someone to go into business doing this.



Club Meeting



Next rally thoughts and ideas:


Kevin and Joy Hodgson in Napier suggested the Ahuriri Yacht Club as a possible venue- not next year but perhaps sometime in the future.


Tikipunga Tavern, just north of Whangarei - Glen Newman is happy to co-ordinate a rally in October 2017 after Labour Weekend - perhaps a safari before or after the rally could be organised.  The meeting agreed to accept this offer from Glen to organise the next rally in Northland, however the venue was in question.  David and Gale Smith offered to help.  (no doubt other Northland members will offer to help too – ed)


Members liked the idea of holding the rally the weekend following Labour Weekend - and to continue to meet once a year as was decided in Levin


A suggestion was made to hold both a South Island and a North Island rally. South Island members number approx 30 - out of 219 members total.


It was suggested to hold the Tech Session on Saturday, leaving more time at the rally to look into issues and ideas after the session, instead of rushing away.


Another suggestion – that there be a place on our website forum ‘girly things’ – ideas for storage, lighting, handy hints for inside, airing clothes etc. (Chris has already set this up and it’s proving popular already– ed)


Topsy – as new members they and others have thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, the friendship and have learnt so much. They have been proud to show off their amazing bumper and share who put on: Ali Arc in Wanganui - phone 0800 4 bullbars


Photos on our website forum seem to be only small photos; is there a problem with that one member queried? Chris wondered if it was a setting on the cell phone.


Marion - offered thanks for a positive and understandable Tech Session. Suggested a feminine aspect to be slotted in for future sessions


David B thanked the Taranaki committee for organising a most enjoyable rally and gave special thanks to the Swiss Club for the use of their wonderful facilities and to the ladies for all the home baking and cleaning up in the kitchen for morning and afternoon teas

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