Campers 'flouting' rules

Overseas visitors Peter Kennedy,  his wife Nittaya and their children Alex (2), Alan (6) and...
Overseas visitors Peter Kennedy, his wife Nittaya and their children Alex (2), Alan (6) and Alyssa (5) stopped at Butchers Dam, near Alexandra, to go fishing on their holiday. Mr Kennedy, formerly of Dunedin, believes camping grounds might be 'pricing themselves off the market'. Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
People freedom-camping in Central Otago this summer can expect the enforcement agency to take a harder line, monitoring camp sites and moving people on.

At a recent Clutha Management Committee meeting, Central Otago deputy mayor Neil Gillespie said campers at certain spots, such as south of the Lowburn dog trial grounds, were ''flouting the freedom-camping rules''.

''There still seem to be people who are definitely staying longer than what's permitted. If you're in a caravan, you don't put your awning up if you're only there a night or two,'' he said.

Those breaking the rules were staying outside the designated areas as well as longer than permitted.

APL Property Ltd has the lake-shore management contract on behalf of Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and polices the freedom-camping laws around Lake Dunstan.

Mr Gillespie said the contractor needed to ''crack down'' on those breaking the rules and property manager Jeff Reidy said the contractor would visit the sites more often.

Central Otago has 13 camping grounds and freedom camping is permitted at six different sites - most near Lake Dunstan. They are Bendigo (three nights' maximum) Champagne Gully between Alexandra and Cromwell (one night), Jackson's Inlet near Cromwell (one night), Lowburn Harbour (three nights), Pinder's Pond at Roxburgh (three nights) and Fraser Domain at Earnscleugh (no time limit).

As well, there are four Department of Conservation camp sites - Dansey's Pass, Homestead (within Oteake Conservation Park), the St Bathans Domain and in the Lindis Pass in the Nine Mile historic reserve. Freedom camping is probably gaining popularity because the traditional camping holiday is getting too expensive, one overseas visitor says.

Former Dunedin resident Peter Kennedy (52) has lived in Australia for 31 years, and is now on holiday in the South Island with his wife Nittaya and their three children, aged 6, 5 and 2.

He hired a camper van and the family has been staying overnight at camping grounds but he believes the ''steep charges'' at all the camping grounds discouraged campers.

''As well as being charged for a powered site, we're also charged per person, which works out at about $50 a night in some places. That's on top of the rental of the van which is $145 a day, so it costs us $200 a day. For that we could almost get two rooms in a motel.

''Some of the camping grounds also make you pay extra for hot water. Quite honestly, I think maybe the camping grounds are pricing themselves off the market.''

Freedom camping was not an option for the Kennedy family, he said.

''We've got young kids so we can't really rough it, but I can see why people do and why it's on the increase.''

Camping used to be a lower-budget holiday, but the prices now, combined with the high price of fuel in this country, made using camper vans and staying at holiday parks a less attractive option, Mr Kennedy said.

''In Aussie we'd pay about $25 for a powered site and you're not charged for every person; I think that's more reasonable.''

''This is a beautiful country but it's expensive for us to holiday here.''

He owns a limousine business in Brisbane and it is his first time back in New Zealand in 15 years. His wife and children are first-time visitors to this country.


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