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.