Campgrounds welcome QLDC’s decision to nix overnight hubs

Pictured: Campervans lined up at the free overnight camping site near the red bridge during QLDC’s 2018 summer trial of camping services. Photo: Wanaka Sun archives.

Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) will not include overnight camping hubs in its plans to promote responsible and sustainable camping across the district this summer. The intention is to instead provide two daytime service hubs located in to-be-determined Wanaka and Queenstown locations as outlined in Council’s Saturday announcement of its 2019/20 Summer Camping Plans.

The move is part of a number of changes incorporated into QLDC’s approach following its methods first adopted in the 2018 camping season and after 'robust discussions' with commercial operators and feedback from campers, the community and responsible camping ambassadors at the 2018 service hubs.

More than 14,600 self-contained vehicles visited the service hubs between last November and March, and ambassadors surveyed more than 30,000 people across the district to 'better understand their motivations.'

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has now given QLDC $788,000 of funding for its responsible camping initiatives; between November 10 and April 26, the two daytime hubs will offer temporary toilets and showers, rubbish and recycling disposal and WiFi. The maximum stay at both hubs will be two hours.

There will also be donation facilities at both hubs, with proceeds used to assist with an environmental and/or ecological project in both towns. 

Other initiatives include signage posted at known hot spots no longer deemed 'appropriate' for camping, real-time maps and updates through a joint venture with Campermate and support from the motorhome industry.

Council's 2018 summer time trial of camping services was implemented to manage the influx of campers to the district. The plan included two free overnight camping sites—near Kingston and the red bridge near Luggate, two service hubs—in Frankton and on Wanaka’s Ballantyne Road and employed camping ambassadors to educate and monitor the hubs and 'trouble areas.'

“Some felt that allowing campers to stay in service hubs overnight last year provided unnecessary competition for our district’s existing campgrounds,” said QLDC community services general manager Thunes Cloete.

"I believe that the decision to put a stop on the overnight [camping] hubs, particularly at the red bridge, is a fantastic decision by our council," said Andrea Kendrick, owner/operator of Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels. "This overnight hub definitely undercut the commercial campgrounds and accommodated visitors that could have been staying at holiday parks that already have services provided."

Kendrick added, "Despite the red bridge site being ‘shut down,’ it still appears to have been operating as a hub since summer, with signage and surveillance cameras in operation.”

QLDC parks service delivery manager Clare Tomkins said there will be more ambassadors across the district during peak season, a greater number of 'freedom camping officers' and a review of the Freedom Camping Bylaw this year.

“Simply put, we’ll have more boots on the ground helping to support responsible camping, covering a greater area than we’ve been able to cover previously," said Tomkins. "This summer, we’ll be able to assist with Department of Conservation land-sites, like the Crown Range. We know that most campers want to do the right thing, and by providing more ambassadors and better education, we're positive our community will continue to see a greater level of people camping responsibly."

Rudi Sanders, director of campground operators CCR, told the Wanaka Sun, "It's good to hear that QLDC scored funding for the service hubs and the extra ambassadors and enforcers but has decided not to keep the overnight camping hubs open.”

Sanders said local commercial operators had been in contact with QLDC about their concerns during the last year and stressed that local commercial campgrounds have ample capacity to accommodate the district’s travellers, including freedom campers. “Freedom campers traditionally prefer not to spend money on holiday parks, but, with this new ruling, they will not have a choice.”

QLDC also announced its new summer camping plans on its social media channels, which elicited several responses, including one from Sara (surname removed): "To those people saying all campers should stay in campsites; I bought my self-contained campervan so I can travel with my dog, as motels and campsites don’t allow dogs in the summer,” she said. “Overcrowded campsites full of tourists parked next to each other are also the last places I want to stay. I have been freedom camping responsibly for 20 years in NZ, why should I, and so many other New Zealand Motor Caravan Association members, be stopped from travelling because we’ve allowed irresponsible tourists to abuse our beautiful country?"


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