Wednesday, 25 November 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Cash injection to help manage freedom camping on the Coromandel

More than $650,000 will be pumped into managing freedom camping on the Coromandel over the summer period following a massive cash injection from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Thames-Coromandel District Council received $656,566 through the Responsible Camping Fund, which will be invested in signage, increased servicing of 60 public toilet facilities, education and information, and the employment of a team of ambassadors to assist campers with making the most of their visit while also understanding the rules and their responsibilities.

Although down on last year’s allocation of $721,774, it is the largest single chunk out of the $8 million fund distributed across New Zealand, reflecting Thames-Coromandel’s position as the most visited district in the North Island in terms of freedom campers and the fourth most popular in the country. According to research carried out by MBIE, an estimated 127,000 individual camping nights were spent on the Peninsula in the 2019 calendar year.

TCDC said it has been fortunate to receive the money in order to manage what is anticipated to be a very busy peak summer period. “The indications we’re getting for the summer is that we could have a 30 per cent increase in our domestic visitors to the Coromandel, so this additional service is going to be really important and even better, it’s at no cost to ratepayers,” said Mayor Sandra Goudie.

“As we demonstrated from last year, the huge value all of this support had to positive visitor behaviour and effective management of tourism has put us in good stead to receive significant funding for this year too. We’re extremely grateful to the government for acknowledging this - and the fact that the Coromandel is one of the most popular areas in the country that people want to visit over [the summer period].”

While MBIE’s Responsible Camping Research 2019/20 does not include regional data on attitudes towards freedom camping, it reveals a high level of concern around the impact of the activity. Around 76 percent of New Zealand residents think that freedom camping has negative impacts on the local environment. This view is shared by local council and Department of Conservation rangers in key camping regions who still face problems like ablutions in natural areas, littering and misuse of waterways. Participating in a survey for the report, DOC also highlighted problems with people trying to avoid paying fees at DOC camping grounds on the Coromandel Peninsula and revealed shared powers enabling TCDC rangers to also issue infringements at DOC sites were being looked at.

Around 55 percent of New Zealand residents would like to see more restrictions placed on freedom camping and 10 percent would like to see it banned altogether.

Overall, the research concluded that all districts have problematic freedom camping sites due to high use and/or poor facilities. Some of the problems are caused by campers who knowingly breaking the rules, while others are due to mistakes or misinformation. Resource constraints and the geographic spread of sites makes enforcement difficult for local council and DOC staff.

In terms of visitor spend, domestic freedom campers spent an average of $43.50 per visitor night, with $14 being spent on food and drink and $12.70 on vehicle fuel and maintenance. When vehicle hire is excluded, international campers who purchased their own vehicles spent an average of $37.50 per visitor night, compared with $77.80 for those who hired a budget vehicle and $83.20 for those who hired a premium vehicle.

Pictured: Freedom campers in Whitianga on Saturday last week.

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