Litter problems mar camp life

Dave Murdoch, of Wellington, left, and Tom Murdoch (13), of Timaru, display their final catch at Parsons Rock, beside Lake Aviemore, before breaking camp for the summer on Monday. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Dave Murdoch, of Wellington, left, and Tom Murdoch (13), of Timaru, display their final catch at Parsons Rock, beside Lake Aviemore, before breaking camp for the summer on Monday. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Christmas campers leaving the Waitaki Lakes this week have expressed disappointment at the increase in litter and poor fishing conditions brought on by high lake levels after heavy rain and last week's hydro dam spills.

An estimated 2500 campers used the Waitaki District Council-controlled Waitaki Lakes camping reserves at Sailors Cutting, Parsons Rock, Boat Harbour and Loch Laird during the peak of the holiday, and although camps supervisor Simon Fox said the majority had been well-behaved and the holiday period had been enjoyable for families, he was losing patience with the behaviour of a small group of youths.

''We have had a lot of happy families. The lake levels coming up have annoyed a few people, a few people had to move camp, they're never happy about that, but everything has been pretty good, really.

''We had a wee few issues with youth with glass, which we always do. But I'm intending to get the council to perhaps give me some sort of tool to work against it.''

Mr Fox said he had wanted a glass ban introduced, but added he did not want to spoil things for the ''mums and dads'' and the majority of youths who used the receptacles and rubbish bags that were provided to everyone.

''And it's not all the youth, either - it's just isolated groups. The biggest thing is, rather than pack up their rubbish in the morning, they tend to back over it and drive off.''

There had also been ''issues'' with people freedom camping around Lake Benmore outside the reserves, he said.

''People sail away ... to the islands ... on private property. One boatie came back from there with three bags of glass, some of it broken, and they had clearly been someone camping there and they had been digging a hole for their toilets.

''There are marginal strips around Lake Benmore, but a lot of that is private farmland. They are idyllic little bays if you want to get away from it, but unfortunately there are some small groups who are leaving their rubbish there and going to the toilet, and I am quite keen to see that stopped.''

Wellington camper Dave Murdoch said his family had been coming to the Waitaki Lakes for holidays at Christmas and New Year for 40 years, and he was ''distressed'' by the large amount of discarded glass left lying around this year.

''There has been a lot more dangerous litter, like glass bottles. It never used to be like that around here.''

Mr Murdoch was also not impressed with the fishing at Lake Aviemore. ''The fish have been hard to find, the water is cold and very high. It's been a struggle.''

However, despite it all, he said he would be back again next year.

''It still beats Wellington. Even on its worst day, this place is better than Wellington, and I love Wellington.''

Central South Island Fish and Game field officer Graeme Hughes said although the fish were ''still there'', there had been a marked drop in catch rates after Christmas.

''We did a check on boat anglers on December 28, and we checked 130-odd anglers and the catch rate on that particular day, which was warm and sunny and clear, was poor. Most of them said they hadn't got anything that day.

''The general consensus was that prior to Christmas it had been really good, but since then had dropped away.''

Mr Hughes said because boat traffic increased around Christmas, a drop in catch rates was not unusual.

''Now we have, of course, the maximum [lake] levels and, in my experience, they tend to be harder to catch when there is a change in level.''

andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz