Uncertainty over KiwiCamp site
Responses to the new freedom camping facility KiwiCamp’s temporary location at Waihi Beach have been mixed.
Western Bay of Plenty District has decided to change the location of the proposed camp — originally a Seaforth Road carpark near Bowentown.
KiwiCamp is a moveable prefabricated building with toilets, bathroom, dishwashing and laundry facilities, showers, access to drinking water, waste and recycling areas, device charging and access to wireless internet. The proposed location, described as temporary by Council, would be the Waihi Beach Community Centre carpark. Facilities will be user pays — but the toilets will be free for campers and the public.
The Waihi Beach Community Centre Committee is worried that extra campers will clutter the carpark, especially during summer events at the centre.
“We understand that we do not own the carpark, just the building, but council’s decision was taken without any consultation with our committee,” committee chairwoman Niria Gerbich says.
Council met last Thursday and opted for the new site “deemed with the least amount of constraints”.
“Where will people park during our summer events such as our Antiques Roadshow, Antique and Collectable fair and Art exhibition in January? We also have the gypsy fair in December,” Niria Gerbich says. She is not against the concept of a KiwiCamp.
Council says it does not anticipate any significant change to the current use of carparks, as the size of the approved freedom camping area will remain the same.
“The freedom camping carpark sites are not designated specifically for freedom campers, therefore they remain available for use by people attending an event at the Community Centre. Effectively the public carpark is available on a first-in/first-served basis,” reserves and facilities manager Peter Watson says.
He says Council would be happy to consider parking in the grassed area behind the hall in case of overflow due to events.
Five sites for KiwiCamps have been considered prior to the new proposed one for the summer period — two in Waihi Beach, and in mokoroa, Wairoa Rd and Te Puna.
Local hapu¯ objected to the original location and an archaeological authority from Heritage NZ is needed as well as consent, due to District Plan requirements.
“Council did expect public comment for any site identified, however, the main issue for not selecting this site related to the ability for Council to obtain the necessary consents in time for the early December installation deadline as a condition of the Government grant.
“Given the imposed deadline, it was considered unlikely that the deadline could be met. The grant was effectively a ‘use it or lose it’ approach by Central Government for receiving the grant,” Peter says.
Western Ward Residents and Ratepayers Association (WWRRA) also said it is concerned with the financing of the camp.
Council received a $340,000 grant from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, with $200,000 to go towards building the facility.
The rest of the grant — $60,000 — is to be used for installing SmartBins in the district and $80,000 for increased security monitoring.
If the Bowentown site was chosen, Council estimated expenditure between $71,000 to $115,000 for site engineering and design, archeological assessment, connection to power and water and building of a platform.
This unbudgeted expenditure will not be covered by the grant, and will come from the General Rate Reserve Account.
“Why is Council using ratepayers’ money to subsidise a facility that will compete with established camping grounds and laundromats which pay rates and/or rents to Council?” it said.
The facility would be at Waihi Beach for only a couple of months over summer, WWRRA secretary Keith Hay says.
Council has not ruled out the Bowentown option long-term and the location of the camp will be reviewed next year.
Peter says that Council has approved up to $40,000.00 for the installation of services, water, sewer connection.
“The $200,000 grant pays for the actual building and connection to services. Council will be the owner of the facility,” he says.
For KiwiCamp director Chris Wagner, Council has “a very hard job” trying to accommodate everyone.
“Ratepayers Associations have a pattern of complaining about freedom camping.
“We have seen similar comments in the Tasman District. Some people can find change scary,” he says.
Chris says that the original KiwiCamp location was his preferred choice too.
“Moving the camp to the Community Centre carpark is just for a trial to help assess how the concept is working, if it creates new problems or fixes them.
“It is a solution for freedom camping. It might not be perfect but at least action is taken,” he says.
Chris says the advantage of the KiwiCamp is the security it brings to the area.
“With our system, users have to provide an ID, like their passport, that we keep on file, meaning we can actually track down who is staying where in a specific time.”
Council says the site has been selected on a trial basis over the summer, and KiwiCamp could in the future be moved to other busy freedom camping spots — such as Te Puke during kiwifruit harvest season.
“The facility is relocatable, therefore the intent is to relocate the facility at the end of the trial period, at which point in time the trial outcomes will be reviewed in March 2019,” Peter says.