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Camping Capacity On The Decline

Camping Capacity On The Decline

One third of all the commercial camping capacity in the Coromandel region has been lost in the past decade says a national review of camping areas published today by Conservation Minister Chris Carter.

A noticeable decline in the number of camping areas has also been identified in the Auckland, East Coast/Hawkes Bay, Rotorua/Central North Island, and Waikato/Bay of Plenty areas. That is despite the vast majority of New Zealand campers using places in the upper North Island for their summer camping holiday.

The findings come from a national review of camping opportunities sought by Mr Carter from the Department of Conservation following widespread public concern about the closure of campgrounds.

"Clearly, public concern about camping is well founded, and it is time to act in key locations, " Mr Carter said.

"This review demonstrates that rising land prices, and the attractiveness of alternative development, have bit hard in to the commercial camping opportunities available in areas where New Zealanders tend to holiday the most around the coast and lakes of the upper North Island.

"There has been a net reduction of about 70 campgrounds nationally since 1996, most of those since 2001, despite no apparent drop in demand. More than 20 camping grounds have disappeared in the Coromandel region alone, even accounting for some new ones opening.

"My colleagues and I will be carefully considering the options the review proposes for tackling this decline, and discussing them further with the commercial camping sector, and regional and local authorities. We hope to conclude this process early next year," Mr Carter said.

"We are particularly mindful that many New Zealanders will have more recreation time than ever before following the introduction of a fourth week of annual leave in 2007."

The options proposed for further discussion by the review include:

Extending the network of camping areas on public land, and letting more contracts to private providers to run campgrounds on public land;
Establishing a fund to purchase select camping grounds for public ownership;
Encouraging the expansion of existing camping areas on to adjacent land over peak periods;
Encouraging camping on unused sports fields, open space reserves, and rural school grounds, where there is clear demand to do so over the peak season;
Seeking a review of the Camping Ground Regulations to enable other organisations to provide basic camping experiences similar to those provided by DOC;
Providing better information to the public about available camping opportunities.

Mr Carter said his first inclination was to make better use of public land before buying more of it, and explore partnerships with commercial operators.

"The review has identified a provisional list of 30 new areas where camping could be located on conservation land in the regions where there has been the most significant loss of campgrounds. There may well be a lot more areas on public land if councils went through a similar exercise looking at the land they manage," Mr Carter said.

"I have asked DOC to do some more detailed analysis of the areas it has proposed, and how best to begin transforming them into campgrounds. Camping is a Kiwi tradition, and it is one the Labour-Progressive government believes is worth preserving."


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