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Campers no issue, says council

By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

Freedom campers are spoiling the view at Ngawi and may be giving other visitors a bad impression of South Wairarapa, a local business owner says.

However, South Wairarapa District Council disagrees, saying they have received positive feedback from campers, with the rugged nature of the area a major drawcard.

Lake Ferry Holiday Park owner Mary Tipoki said dirty toilets and no washing facilities or drinking water was, as well as unhygienic, not giving tourists a good experience of the area.

Mrs Tipoki said over the past five years, visitor numbers to the South Wairarapa coast had “trebled”.

But along with the growing popularity of freedom camping, she had seen a decrease in campers at her holiday park — although this was not her main concern.

She said there were two types of freedom campers staying at free campsites — those who were self-contained and those who were not.

She said people staying in tents on sites without adequate facilities were “leaving huge footprints behind”.

A group of German tourists loving their time at the Ngawi free camp site.
A group of German tourists loving their time at the Ngawi free camp site.

Earlier this week, she visited the council-owned Ngawi Surf Break free campsite, as well as the Conservation Department-managed Putangirua Pinnacles Campsite, which has a minimal charge.

She found that Ngawi had no water, no showers, no septic system, but had numerous rubbish receptacles, and portable toilets that were “most unpleasant”.

At the Pinnacles she said the toilets had been filthy, there were no showers, and no dish washing or grey water disposal facilities.

Mr Tipoki said if the government and local authorities were to keep encouraging freedom camping in New Zealand, they needed to improve infrastructure to cope.

“People are going to be coming here more and more and we need a strategy plan to ensure we preserve what we have — our precious coastline, which is unique and really the jewel in the Wairarapa crown.”

She also said that allowing campers to stay at Ngawi for 21 days was ‘overkill’, with council footing the bill for the coastal ranger, toilets and bins.

“The campers are interrupting the view for the day visitors and ratepayers are paying for their stay.”

SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp said a ranger visited the Ngawi camp site every couple of days, so as not to be intrusive on campers but “to ensure there are no issues”.

He said he regularly received “positive unsolicited comments” about South Wairarapa’s freedom camping opportunities, with people saying the lack of infrastructure meant campers could “live the simple life”.

“They say that if they want a different camping experience, then they can simply go to campgrounds with all the facilities.”

Mr Crimp said the ranger had indicated there had “been no issues at all at the coast” this season.

“All the campers seem to be happily self-sufficient in terms of water and sanitation needs.”

But he added that one frustrating issue was the self-contained campers emptying their waste into the portable toilets — not what they were intended for.

He said rubbish collection was increased during busy periods but sometimes these were hard to predict, resulting in rubbish overflow.

A DOC ranger at the Putangirua Pinnacles Campsite yesterday said he had cleaned the toilets and pumped water into them, topped up the toilet paper, and made sure everyone there was playing by the rules.

South Wairarapa rural postie Gordon Wyeth, who owns a batch in Ngawi, said during the Christmas and New Year period “about 40 people” had camped on the edge of the township’s golf course.

“They looked like hoons, but after they’d left I went and gave the area a check over and there wasn’t even a bottle cap.”

Yesterday, at the Ngawi free camp site, there was a group of German tourists who were intending to spend their second night before moving on.

They said the area was beautiful and they did not mind there were no showers — “we’ve got the sea,” they said.



Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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