Waitaki Lakes campsites privatisation postponed

Privatisation by leasing out Waitaki lakes camp sites will probably be deferred at least two years while the Waitaki District Council continues to manage them and get more revenue.

That could include more efficient management, increasing fees to recover more of the costs of running the camps from campers, better promotion and reducing the subsidy paid by ratepayers.

The deficit from camping fees in comparison to costs has been a bugbear for the council for years, and a draft Waitaki Lakes Camping Areas Management Plan which put forward several proposals, including long-term contracts or leasing to private providers for up to 21 years the camping areas at Parsons Rock, Boat Harbour, Loch Laird and the Wildlife Reserve as one group, Ohau C and Falstone as the second, and Sailors Cutting on its own.

When that was put out for public consultation, 158 submissions were received - 60% of them from campers, 14% from day users and others from a variety of people. The submissions were 59% in opposition to leasing and 23.5% in favour.

Of those making submissions, 70% were from outside the Waitaki district.

Yesterday, the council's community services committee considered two options to recommend to the council - a moratorium of two years on leasing out the camping re-serves or going ahead with the leasing option and calling for expressions of interest.

The committee chose the two-year moratorium and the council will decide on that on April 1.

That gives it a chance to follow up on suggestions made in submissions with the aim of making them more profitable.

Cr June Slee, who represents the Ahuriri ward where the camps are located, believed changes needed to be made to the way they were run without leasing the reserves out.

These could include more efficient ways of collecting fees, working with the Waimate District and Mackenzie District Councils to share services and other proposals.

The Ahuriri Community Board supported the council continuing management and had emphasised the importance the camps played in the local economy.

''Our people rely on outside people coming in to the camping grounds bringing revenue to the area,'' board chairman Graham Sutherland said.

Cr Melanie Tavendale said the moratorium gave the council an opportunity to improve management of the camps and then determine whether they were viable to lease or retain them on behalf of the community.

Cr Jim Hopkins said 70% of those who made submissions were from outside the district, but emphasised the council's first responsibility was to its ratepayers.

Some people wanted the status quo retained but the council had to give priority to its ratepayers, who were subsidising the camping, he said.

david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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