Friendly face: The late David van der Camp


Queenstown’s lost a unique character with last week’s death of long-time body piercer David van der Camp.

The 54-year-old, who it’s believed died of a heart condition, was highly regarded as a piercer throughout New Zealand, however in Queenstown he was also a sounding board for hundreds of locals.

His Skyline Arcade studio, Innersteel, ‘‘became a social centre where people could just
drop in who often needed to see a friendly face to feel at home’’, friend Deborah Coburn says.

‘‘It was one of the solid things in Queenstown, that you could walk into Dave’s piercing shop and have a chinwag,’’ business neighbour and friend Kate Robinson says.

Known for his ‘‘epic smile’’ and silver teeth, which he’d just had replaced, he also doted on his sons Max, 12, and Oscar, 11, who were ‘‘his whole world’’, Robinson adds.

Born in Auckland and raised in Feilding and then Townsville, Australia, he arrived in  Queenstown in ’96 after body piercing in London for a couple of years.

Looking for premises, he was offered space by Coburn, who’d just started her own business, Collective.

‘‘He walked in off the street in his army camo clothes and his teeth were broken, but he had a very cheeky smile and I liked him straight away,’’ she says.

In ’98, he was pictured on Mountain Scene’s cover performing a body suspension in San Francisco, where he was suspended using metal hooks through his flesh.

Nerves of steel: A ’98 Mountain Scene photo of David van der Camp performing a body suspension

He then garnered even more exposure when his stunt made national TV.

While developing his business, he also cheffed at The Bunker and The Bathhouse, and was known for hosting wicked dinner parties.

Coburn says she felt privileged to see him ‘‘evolve into the man he became — he is the most honest, caring person, he always had a very strong moral compass about how to treat people’’.

For the past two days, to raise money for his boys, his ‘‘apprentice’’, Kasey Bonn, assisted by Robinson, has sold jewellery from his store and body pierced queues
of people.

Tributes: David van der Camp’s body piercing studio’s been coated with handwritten tributes, including messages from his sons, Max and Oscar

Bonn, 18, who’d worked on and off for Van der Camp since December, 2020, says ‘‘he’d let me come in and stab my friends’’.

‘‘He taught me all the perfect techniques, and, really, I put that into use for the first time [this week].’’

Aside from his craft, she says ‘‘he had unmatchable energy and everyone just loved being in his presence — genuinely, he was one of a kind’’.

David’s burial will be held at 3pm this coming Monday at Queenstown Cemetery, followed by a wake at The Bunker from 5pm.