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Popular south coast campsite closure opposed

PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

SUE TEODORO
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More than a thousand people have signed a petition opposing a move by South Wairarapa District Council to close a popular campsite on Wairarapa south coast.

Council chief executive Harry Wilson said at a council meeting last week that the Te Awaiti reserve campsite at Tora should be closed because it was at high risk of sudden and severe flooding, putting lives in danger.

Map of the campsite at Tora, showing potential flood zone. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“It has a large catchment behind it, it has a bridge which acts as a choke point, and it has a sand/silt area very much like Lake Ferry, which means if you had a flash flood, the water would be channelled back up and completely flood an area.

It’s a huge risk for people who would be camping at night. They would have no warning,” he said.

Wilson referenced a similar situation in Coromandel, where a caravan at a campground had been washed out to sea.

Due to the high risk and with summer and Labour weekend approaching, he said it was an operating decision.

“It is an operating decision that I have to make. I have approached Local Government New Zealand to get some advice on the appropriate mechanisms to act quickly. There is a strong public risk. The reason I’m informing you is I do want this on the public record that I’m likely to be making this decision once I have the information from LGNZ,” he said.

He said it would be important to speak to people who had used the site in the past and there were alternative campsites available. The grounds would still be open during the day.

“I have talked to a number of residents in and around, they have seen flooding. Fortunately when people weren’t there. There have been a few occasions where they have had to rescue people. It’s an intolerable situation, and we need to act,” he said.

Councillor Jephson endorsed the move, and Councillor Emms said public consultation would be important.

Late on Sunday, the petition ‘Stop the council closure of Te Awaiti Reserve to Overnight camping’ on change.org had more than 1000 signatures.

“The closure of this freedom coastal camping ground would be a huge loss to families who have camped here for many years [3 generations in my family]. The South Wairarapa District Council has not followed the correct process with no notification, transparency or consultation regarding the “Public Safety” issue that they believe exists at this campsite [flashflooding].

Over the 40 years I have personally camped here, I have never seen one flashflood,” the petition said.

Many comments on the petition were from campers who had used the site for years with no flooding. Others criticised SWDC for lack of consultation.

“We have stayed there over the past 12 years and have never been caught in a flood,” Diane Barnes said.

“Why has there been no public consultation? What is happening with the SWDC that they think they can do whatever they like without consulting members of the public,” Rachel McKenzie said.

Tora residents Jenny and Alistair Boyne said they were happy to have freedom camping on all the campsites.

The Martinborough Community Board issued a statement asking for more information and community consultation.

“The Martinborough Community Board are keen to see and hear council’s evidence and reports, as well as hearing from residents in the area, campers and interested parties who will be affected by this decision. We’re wanting to have this matter added to the agenda for our next meeting on 7 October so that we can learn and discuss the issues with our community.”

Wilson said he aimed to get signage up at the site about the closure before Labour weekend.

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