Lake Dunstan campers could be charged fee

Camping vehicles parked on the shore of Lake Dunstan at Lowburn. Photo: ODT files
Camping vehicles parked on the shore of Lake Dunstan at Lowburn. Photo: ODT files
Campers at Lake Dunstan freedom camping sites may have to pay ''a small fee'' to stay there this summer.

in the meantime, two full-time staff will patrol freedom camping sites during a trial monitoring regime, although it is still uncertain whether campers will be trespassed from sites or not.

The Central Otago District Council (CODC) will today discuss a report about the trial regime, which was announced by Land and Information New Zealand (Linz) in October and is being done in tandem with the CODC.

A report from council chief adviser Dr Saskia Righarts said two Cougar Security staff would patrol popular Lake Dunstan Linz sites such as Bendigo, Lowburn and Champagne Gully.

Additional monitoring of council reserves such as Cromwell's Alpha St Reserve, Pinders Pond, near Roxburgh, and the Pines, in Alexandra, would also be done.

But councillors will need to decide whether or not to trespass those who breach the rules.

Linz had given the Cougar Security staff authority to legally trespass campers from sites around Lake Dunstan if they overstayed or otherwise breached the rules, Dr Righarts' report said.

She has recommended councillors decide not to trespass freedom campers from council-owned and managed land as part of the summer trial, and ''note that insights from our summer programme for 2018-19 will help inform the development of a robust responsible camping policy for Central Otago''.

''It is proposed that we take a two-staged approach to this issue: an immediate summer response to freedom camping and a longer-term strategic approach to responsible camping that aligns with the national policy that will be developed, and that draws on the outcomes and lessons from the approach taken over summer 2018-19.''

Dr Righarts said not trespassing campers would allow time for council to work with local industry to develop affordable alternative accommodation options for workers; enable time to work with partner agencies such as Linz, NZ Transport Agency and nearby councils; and encourage travellers ''to come to the region this summer and support our local economy''.

However, the disadvantages of not trespassing could include that popular camping sites would be at, or beyond, capacity this summer; and there could be increased community complaints and concerns.

Dr Righarts' report said Linz was considering charging campers ''a small fee'' to stay at Lowburn, Bendigo, Jacksons and Champagne Gully sites.

It did not say how much the fee would be, and said practical issues, such as policing and technology such as hiring portable eftpos machines, were being ''worked through''.

However, Linz management ''have indicated there remains a chance a fee could be introduced during this summer period'', she said.

The Cougar Security staff will monitor Central Otago sites daily, and education is also a key part of the trial regime.

Infrastructure at some sites will also be improved, including more toilet facilities, improved signage, the installation of vehicle counters, and improved fencing at Lowburn and Champagne Gully to keep vehicles clear of boat ramps and away from the edge of the lake.

pam.jones@odt.co.nz

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