Joint ap­proach to be tri­alled

Clutha Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - MARY-JO TOHILL

Free­dom camp­ing en­force­ment in the Catlins looks set to get tougher, with the ap­point­ment of a ranger and the cre­ation of more des­ig­nated camp­ing sites.

Clutha Dis­trict Coun­cil, Southland Dis­trict Coun­cil and DOC will equally share the costs of a $45,000 trial op­er­a­tion from De­cem­ber to March, which will be fo­cused on pop­u­lar tourism area, the Catlins.

The joint ap­proach was an­nounced at a Clutha Dis­trict Coun­cil meet­ing held at Bal­clutha last Thursday, with $15,000 ap­proved from the coun­cil’s reg­u­la­tory ser­vices bud­get.

At the mo­ment, en­force­ment was lim­ited to a small group of vol­un­teers, Clutha Dis­trict Coun­cil reg­u­la­tory man­ager David Camp­bell said.

It was pro­posed that the new ranger, to be appointed be­fore the sum­mer sea­son be­gan in earnest in De­cem­ber, would be based at Pa­p­a­towai. Ed­u­ca­tion, not in­fringe­ment, was key to the trial, rather than ‘‘slap­ping fines on ev­ery­one’’, Camp­bell said.

An­other key com­po­nent to the plan was DOC’s will­ing­ness to open up more of its sites be­tween the Nuggets in south Otago, and Fortrose in Southland. Sites in the Catlins’ Southland end would be a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus.

DOC al­ready op­er­ates sev­eral feep­ay­ing camp­ing sites in the Clutha area, and may open up some oth­ers, but only for self-con­tained campers. At present, the coun­cil does not have any sites avail­able, but is work­ing on this as part of the long term plan.

Reg­u­la­tory staff would be meet­ing with the Owaka and Pa­p­a­towai com­mu­ni­ties to in­form them of the joint ap­proach.

Coun­cil­lors were mostly in favour on the trial. Catlins ward mem­ber Cr Hi­lary McNab said it was a good pool­ing of re­sources where they were needed.

‘‘We don’t want to stop peo­ple com­ing. We just want to steer them into the right places.’’

West Otago mem­ber Cr John Her­bert had some reser­va­tions, in that open­ing up free­dom camp­ing sites en­abled some tourists to not stay at camp­ing grounds, where they would be pay­ing fees. ’’I don’t think the ratepay­ers should be pay­ing for some­one else’s hol­i­day.’’

It was gen­er­ally agreed that if the trial was suc­cess­ful this sea­son, it could be in­cluded in long term plan and an­nual plan dis­cus­sions.

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