Long-term campers not seen as problem

Albert Town campground manager Rudi Sanders says most people living long-term at the campground ...
Albert Town campground manager Rudi Sanders says most people living long-term at the campground have no other option. Photo: Sean Nugent
There is no problem with people quietly living long-term at the Albert Town campground, councillors and the campground manager say.

The campground has come under criticism from Albert Town Community Association chairman Jim Cowie, who expressed the association’s concerns about the campground becoming a "shantytown" full of semi-permanent residents.

The campground forms part of the Albert Town Recreation Reserve, and Mr Cowie told councillors at a meeting last month  people staying long-term violated the rules set out in the reserve’s management plan.

The plan states campers can have "no single continuous occupation exceeding 28 days", and "as a recreation reserve, the campground should only be occupied by genuine holiday-makers and should not be occupied with semi-permanent residents".

But at a Wanaka Community Board meeting this week, QLDC deputy mayor Calum MacLeod said it was unfair to target those living at the campground.

"This is the most unaffordable district in the country and [finding a home to live in] is an unrealistic option for them. These people do a power of good for our community so it’s kind of hard to point the finger and say ‘I am actually living in a house, you need to get up and move on’. There are good operators in the camp and all the stats say they’re controlling it."

Fellow councillor Ross McRobie said it would be unfair for one campground to not adhere to its rules, but believed changing those to allow for such activity could be an option.

Otago regional councillor Ella Lawton said she  used to live at the campground, and called the "shantytown" criticism "ridiculous". She  spent the  2015 and 2016 summers in the camp  and described it as a "really lovely way to live".

"I think it’s a really good option for people and people need to stop being so judgemental.

"People should have the right to choose how they want to live — they’re not hurting anyone else."

Wanaka’s rising rents and lack of accommodation were the primary reasons people had been moving into the campground, manager Rudi Sanders said.

But he said numbers were controlled.

"We have an agreement with council to limit number of long-term campers to 20 at any one time. Ninety-five percent of the people here work in Wanaka. They’re not here out of their own free will —  if it were up to them, they would be in a nice warm house — but unfortunately that’s not an option for them."

The long-term residents acted as the "eyes and ears" for him, he said, and helped keep the place tidy when tourists flocked to the site during the summer months.


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