More camp­ing spots needed


A free­dom camp­ing ranger trial is re­veal­ing that the Clutha-Catlins lacks suit­able camp sites and needs more sig­nage.

Feed­back from the ap­pointed ranger Scott Martin had been pos­i­tive since the jointly-funded Clutha, South­land Dis­trict Coun­cil and DOC ini­tia­tive be­gan in De­cem­ber, Clutha coun­cil reg­u­la­tory man­ager David Camp­bell said.

The Pa­p­a­towai-based ranger, who has been em­ployed for the sum­mer, was us­ing ‘‘an ed­u­ca­tional rather than con­fronta­tional ap­proach’’ to move free­dom campers from known hot spots, such as Catlins Lake, to des­ig­nated camp­ing ar­eas.

There had been less foul­ing re­ported, and in­creased use of DOC camp­sites at Pa­p­a­towai, Pu­rakanui Bay and Tawanui this sum­mer.

How­ever, the ex­er­cise showed that the Clutha dis­trict lacked free­dom camp­ing spots and sig­nage clearly in­di­cat­ing whether or not peo­ple could camp. It also high­lighted a lack of fa­cil­i­ties and in­fra­struc­ture such as toi­lets, rub­bish bins and re­cy­cling fa­cil­i­ties.

This was not such an is­sue at the South­land end of the Catlins, which al­ready had in­fra­struc­ture and sig­nage in place, and a good level of free­dom camp­ing com­pli­ance, South­land Dis­trict Coun­cil en­vi­ron­men­tal health man­ager Michael Sar­faiti said.

But the in­creas­ing num­ber of free­dom campers was adding pres­sure to those fa­cil­i­ties.

Both Sar­faiti and Camp­bell said it was def­i­nitely a topic of fu­ture con­ver­sa­tion for their re­spec­tive coun­cils. Lo­cal coun­cils and DOC make de­ci­sions about where and how free­dom camp­ing is per­mit­ted on land in their con­trol un­der the Free­dom Camp­ing Act.

DOC se­nior ranger Kathryn Pem­ber­ton was pleased with how the pilot-ranger project was go­ing and hoped a more per­ma­nent ap­point­ment could be put into the mix. DOC and the coun­cils con­trib­uted $45,000 to the cost of the Clutha-Catlins trial op­er­a­tion.

She also paid trib­ute to key com­mu­nity peo­ple and pro­mo­tions group Catlins Coast In­cor­po­rated, for be­ing in­stru­men­tal in help­ing make the pilot pro­gramme hap­pen and en­sur­ing its suc­cess.

The ex­er­cise was also re­veal­ing a need for greater con­sis­tency of how the free­dom camp­ing by­law was in­ter­preted be­tween the coun­cils, and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties na­tion­wide.

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