Joint approach to be trialled
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.