Riversdale Beach. PHOTO/FILE

Beachside town pushing to get tourists to stay

BECKIE WILSON

beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

Campers could be returning to one of Wairarapa’s favourite beachside destinations.

Riversdale Beach hasn’t had a public campground since the land was bought and subdivided in the early 2000s, meaning those wanting a cheap and cheery alternative to renting out a house or bach have been out of luck.

While there is a private caravan park, tourists hoping to stay in the town are often told to carry on to Castlepoint.

Now, a new push for a campground is gaining momentum, although those wanting to pitch a tent there will – at this stage – be disappointed.

Riversdale Ratepayers’ Association president Bill Roberts said the idea for a new camping ground at the beach had been floated for years.

An aerial view of Riversdale Beach with one of the camping grounds in the early 1960s. PHOTO/WAIRARAPA ARCHIVE

The idea only involved campervans and caravans at this stage, as “tents become a whole other argument, but that’s not to say it won’t be looked at but it just depends on the land”.

Since the two previous camping grounds closed down, only permanent, privately-owned sites remained, and there had been nowhere for campers to park up and stay the night.

“It’s a shame,” Mr Roberts said.

“People come out here thinking they can camp in their campervan, but they then turn around and go to Castlepoint.”

The association had a piece of land in mind, however it was owned by an overseas owner, he said.

The initial idea was to find a smaller piece of land where a toilet block with coin-operated showers could be established, with enough space for some campervans.

Mr Roberts said the association had submitted a proposal as part of the Masterton District Council’s annual plan over a number of years, but had been declined each time.

In July last year he was told that there were problems around managing a campground, and the council would investigate potential bylaws around the proposal this year.

Mr Roberts said, “It hasn’t gotten off the ground, but it’s not a dead fish yet”.

When Riversdale Beach was established by Basil Bodle in the early 1950s, two camping grounds were opened for visitors to stay and enjoy the seaside town.

Mark Donaldson, a former All Black, bought the beachfront Riversdale Beach Camping Ground off its founder Gary Bodle in 2002, with plans to subdivide.

The other camping ground at the beach was Riversdale Beach Holiday Park.

Both camping grounds housed permanent site holders and regular camping.

Now the Holiday Park only has privately owned sites.

Paul Bodle, grandson of the beach’s founder, said his grandfather’s purpose for establishing the beach was for everyone to enjoy it.

“If there was a camping ground it would be great,” he said.

“[Basil] set it up for everyone . . . but there’s nowhere to stay.”

Riversdale Beach Store owner Amy Chappell said having a camping ground would be great for locals as well as tourists who came to the beach.

“It would be good — there are heaps of people that come, and if people asked if there was somewhere they could camp, we could tell them there was somewhere to go.”

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the council was aware of the association’s previous requests.

“We are really happy to work with the association to investigate and look at different options,” she said.

Masterton District councillor Chris Peterson said while discussions were only in the early stages he supported the idea.

“The principle of having a camp site where people of modest income can still get access to a holiday on the beach is great.”

Mr Peterson said there were a “couple of possible areas of land” where a camping ground could be set up.

Destination Wairarapa general manager David Hancock said it would be great for the tourism aspect of Riversdale Beach to have a place for people to camp at.