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A few weeks ago, the Southland District Council started upgrade work at the site, but residents are complaining about the conditions of their beloved beach in the meantime.
"Born and bred" Orepuki resident Karen Bailey said locals had not been informed about the start of the work and she was surprised when she saw her family's favourite camping spot was "all gravel".
"They should never have done that. They did not give the people, the locals, the opportunity to talk ... No-one knew. "
The main concern was the grass area, where they pitched their tents, had been "ripped out".
"Anyone that has camped there knows that tents are only able to survive by the bank due to the strong winds on the beach."
She said when she asked Cr Stuart Baird about the upgrade, he said it had been published in the newspaper two years ago.
"Two years ago? That's not enough. They went there and dug it up. To me it feels like digging up my mother's grave."
Council community facilities manager Mark Day said the upgrade at Monkey Island had been outlined in Southland's long-term plan.
"While we appreciate it can look untidy initially, construction is happening during the off-season to reduce disruption for users and ensure the area will continue to be a summer asset for all to enjoy."
Mr Day said once the work was completed, the area would be landscaped.
"Recognising the importance of this area to both locals and visitors, this work is being done to improve Monkey Island for all users."
A council spokesman said the public had been invited to attend to a meeting on Monday following requests to hear their thoughts on the upgrade project.
"It is our expectation the public will have an opportunity to share their views and also gain an understanding of the project's benefits."