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The eight-berth self-contained camper van site on Inn St, behind the Catlins Inn, was opened by the Clutha District Council at Labour Weekend, despite a series of recent community meetings at which neighbours and local accommodation providers objected strongly.
Since it opened, Owaka motel owner Trevor Hewson had been monitoring activity at the site, and at the area's Doc and commercial campsites.
"I've seen as many as five vehicles using it so far, and a total of two that looked like they were unlikely to be self-contained. There was also a commercial ute parked there one night.
"On the night there were five here, there were a total of four at commercial campgrounds locally. So you could argue that's five customers lost to local business as a result."
Owaka resident Jenny Kinley, whose son and family live opposite the new site, said people remained "angry" about the "invisible" council consultation process.
She said many now feared the consequences of freedom camping seeming to be "encouraged" in the town.
"We're terribly afraid that when it gets cranking it will be chaos. Already it was very noisy on Saturday night when I visited my son, and even with relatively small numbers of visitors there are signs traffic, litter and general behaviour could be a problem."
Both Mr Hewson and Mrs Kinley emphasised the need for "effective" monitoring of the site by the council's responsible camping ranger, Scott Martin.
Mr Hewson also wanted to see signage erected deterring campers from parking at undesignated sites in the town and district.
"I haven't seen Scott yet, but there needs to be someone here at peak times checking on self-containment, behaviour and noise.
"Otherwise it just won't work."
While acknowledging the project had "polarised" residents, Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said the council was happy to see the trial begin.
"This will fulfil the need for the vast majority of people in the Catlins. We look forward to a successful trial."
The project had come in under its budget of $25,000, and would be reviewed at the end of the season.