Reserves, conservation land plans for campers

The welcome mat is being extended to campers in Central Otago but freedom campers will be steered towards conservation land and reserves.

The Central Otago District Council has developed its first draft strategy on camping options in the district and the discussion document is open for public submission.

"As councillors, we'd love some feedback from our constituents on what they really want in this area when it comes to camping, so we have an understanding about what the residents, as well as the campers, think," Cr Tony Lepper said at yesterday's council meeting.

The strategy has been developed to address concerns about the impacts of camping, the council's community development manager, Mathew Begg, said.

Significant amounts of freedom camping occurred on Linz and Department of Conservation-administered marginal strip land around the lakes and river margins. Doc supported freedom camping on public conservation land.

The strategy suggested there be no active marketing of freedom camping in the district.

Cr Lepper said camping grounds throughout the district were crammed at the peak of summer, when demand was highest.

Cr John Lane said the biggest hassle in the Roxburgh ward was seasonal workers camping on the road reserve while they were working on nearby orchards, because of the lack of accommodation.

"I don't believe Joe Average is going to respond to this and I wonder if we've put the cart before the horse; if we need to know what our constituents want before we form the strategy.

"The biggest flak we got when we put out the original freedom camping document was from camping ground operators."

The council's district development manager Anne Pullar said there was a massive increase in freedom camping in the district last year but nearly all the camping grounds in the district also reported increased demand.

"In this document, there's a call for additional facilities, but who would bear the cost of that?" Cr Steve Battrick asked.

Cr Gordon Stewart said it was important to get a "buy-in" from Linz for the strategy.

"There's also no indication in it, if rules are established and policy set, who goes out to do the policing."

Cr Barry Becker said: "We need to set up rules for these people because they camp in some awful funny places".

Central Otago mayor Malcolm Macpherson said the increase in freedom camping and the "odd places" overseas visitors camped was because they viewed the area on a computer "sitting in a cafe in Paris, maybe, and they see a spot they like and come here and drive to that spot, using GPS."

> Covers demand for camping, services and locations.
> Notes growing demand for camping sites, dump stations, and limited-service sites.
> Suggests extra sites be developed with limited services: water and toilets, but no electricity.
> Guidelines should be developed for such camping, with "more active management".
> No active marketing of freedom camping.
> Concerns about fire risk in summer, overcrowding in some areas, water quality.
> Copies of strategy available from council website, offices and libraries.
> Submissions close on July 23.

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