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On Thursday, the Clutha District Council announced its intention to run a $25,000 summer trial at two Owaka sites, and a third near Papatowai, in an effort to better control freedom camping.
During the trial, freedom campers would not be permitted to park elsewhere in the Catlins, other than Doc and commercial campsites.
Catlins responsible camping ranger Scott Martin would police the trial.
A furious Pounawea Motor Camp manager, Glenn Maxwell, contacted the Otago Daily Times yesterday, saying the proposal would undercut his and other commercial campsites in the district.
"I'm absolutely spewing, and I'm not the only one.
"I pay $5000 in rates, and more to lease the camp from council, and here's ratepayer money going into three, free campsites for freedom campers. They don't spend a dollar in the community, and they won't be spending a dollar at local motor camps if this goes ahead.''
He said he had never seen a council ranger, and questioned the effectiveness of "policing'' arrangements.
"You see them parked along the waterfront all summer. Where's [the ranger] sending them? We'd give him discount vouchers to hand out if we ever saw him.''
An Owaka cafe owner, who preferred not to be named, said freedom campers were "misunderstood'', and a potential asset to some businesses.
"Some see them as a blight. They're not a blight. Five dollars for a coffee is five dollars, wherever it comes from.''
Owaka's urban economy relied on tourists of all types, he said.
"This proposal just prevents the mess spreading over a wide area, and focuses more visitors in town. Those who choose not to use commercial campsites are never going to change, so let's at least do what we can to improve things otherwise.''
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan reiterated control and limitation were the proposal's guiding principles.
"We need a solution that encourages responsible behaviour while providing tangible benefits to locals, as the present system does neither.
"After extensive consultation ... the clear directive was to channel campers into a limited number of sites. By channelling them we can police things more effectively and also locate visitors as close as practicable to retail opportunities, in the hope that we get them to spend.''
As the trial sites would accept limited numbers only, "overspill'' would have to use commercial options, or move on.
This would be a "distinct advantage'' for operators, he said.
"Council has been vilified for doing nothing in the past. We believe this is a pragmatic approach that reflects the sentiment of the majority of locals.''