Marginally grounded: Camping ground residence in New Zealand

Chrissy Severinsen – PhD 2010

This study describes the nature of the experiences of camping ground residents in relation to their health, and within the context of individual, local and national spheres. It situates camping ground residence as a particular form of housing, and contests public understandings of camping grounds as only summer holiday destinations.

Researchers from a range of disciplines continue to make advances in understanding the links between housing and health and extending our knowledge of the relationship. Housing as a health issue is multi- dimensional and complex; it affects individuals and how they interact with their communities and wider society. This thesis views housing in broad terms, taking into account the many influences that shape people’s experiences of their housing. While adequate housing has been identified as a key social determinant of health, and is a major policy goal in New Zealand, there has been little research focused on temporary accommodation. Camping grounds as a form of housing have not been previously discussed in the New Zealand literature.

This thesis presents a narrative analysis of in-depth interviews carried out with 22 camping ground residents and 20 community key informants, in order to present a comprehensive insight into the dynamics of life in camping grounds. This thesis examines camping ground residence through a framework of the socio-spatial nature of housing, and through concepts of place, community and housing pathways. The research highlights the broader socio-political context in which New Zealand camping grounds operate, including the legal and regulatory frameworks, public representations, and definitions of homelessness and healthy housing. The politicisation and problematisation of camping ground residence illustrates the tensions surrounding the provision of housing in camping grounds, which is related to the marginalisation and social exclusion of those who live in camping grounds. This research explores camping ground residence as both positive and detrimental to the health of residents, through the shaping of residents’ opportunities and access to housing resources and community. The social exclusion and vulnerability of some residents, exacerbated by situations of poor quality housing and housing insecurity, is presented alongside other aspects of camping ground residence, such as opportunities to develop social networks and place attachment, which may mediate some of the effects of poor housing and social exclusion.

The findings here offer an understanding of camping ground residence in New Zealand and conceptualise residents’ movements in, through and out of camping grounds. Narrative analysis enabled a comprehensive analysis of the experiences of those living in camping grounds, and facilitated reflection on the many layers of context and experience that shape residents’ housing and health. The thesis concludes by emphasising camping ground residence as contested and complex, and camping grounds as sites of the politics of place.

Read Chrissy’s thesis here.