Lakeside site fees a possibility

Campers may be charged a fee for using lakeside sites in Central Otago this summer.

But the idea was only in "the early phases" and any decision would be made in agreement with the Central Otago District Council and other stakeholders, Land Information New Zealand (Linz) deputy chief executive Crown property Jerome Sheppard said.

The announcement follows discussion by district councillors at this week's council meeting in Alexandra.

Deputy mayor Neil Gillespie said he was "really concerned" there was no update yet on freedom camping initiatives for the coming summer and "I'm just getting nervous that the Crown [Linz] moves really slowly".

Council chief adviser Dr Saskia Righarts replied during the meeting that Linz was "keen" to introduce a charge for Lake Dunstan campsites this summer. However, it would not do so unless the district council supported it.

Mr Sheppard confirmed yesterday Linz was considering a charge for Lake Dunstan sites.

The Lake Dunstan sites include Bendigo, Lowburn and Champagne Gully.

"While we were extremely pleased with the behaviour of people using our sites last season, there is an ongoing cost to Linz for providing this service.

"This cost includes daily cleaning, rubbish removal and general maintenance. In peak times, some services are needed twice daily," Mr Sheppard said.

Councillors noted that if a charge was introduced, there was no mechanism to enforce it, and it would be almost impossible to bring in a council bylaw before summer.

Mr Gillespie said funding for enforcement by patrolling security guards at Lake Dunstan sites last summer was "all very well, but nothing else has progressed".

"Someone needs to ... say it's time we need to sort this. We haven't got time to muck around."

Mr Sheppard said demand from campers for the Lake Dunstan sites was high.

"From late October to early January, we had 33,375 vehicles through our four sites in Central Otago - approximately 3000 a week. This includes those using the site for freedom camping and recreational purposes."

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said after the meeting he preferred not to comment on a possible charge, but that a charge would be "just one factor in a multifaceted, responsible camping space that we have to consider".

Council and Linz representatives are meeting to discuss the issue next week.

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