Freedom camping at Te Anau site cut

The Department of Conservation will close Te Anau's Queens Reach to camping for the coming summer season and proposes to upgrade facilities for day visitors instead.

The decision was made after public and stakeholder consultation and a pilot project on managing freedom camping, organised by the Southland District Council and DOC last summer.

DOC Te Anau area manager Reg Kemper said the solution was a balanced outcome for the Te Anau community and satisfied the intent of the legislation.

"What we are hearing is that a sufficient number and range of camping opportunities exist within the Te Anau basin without formalising a new camp site," he said.

The 2011 summer trial removed most of the camping from car parks and streets around Te Anau, however, this led to Queens Reach conservation area becoming a default-free camping area.

Mr Kemper said rather than catering for the overflow, the location became a destination.

Commercial camping businesses in Te Anau basin were concerned that the site had become a free alternative to their commercial sites and people in the town, who had used Queens Reach for recreational activities, were concerned about environmental degradation of the site.

In May this year, DOC and the district council organised a series of meetings to present the results of its trial and to ask for public opinion on the 2012-13 summer season.

Following these discussions, DOC explored the option of creating a paid self-registration campsite at Queens Reach that would allow for a limited number of campers in a defined camping area.

However, the majority of public submissions received were not in favour of establishing a paid campsite but wanted to see the area closed to camping for at least one summer season.

Queens Reach will close to all free camping for the summer season 2012-13, from October 23 this year.

Rangers will patrol Queens Reach as part of the camping compliance for the wider area.

Meanwhile, DOC is seeking funding to upgrade day visitor facilities at Queens Reach, and the campsite situation will be reviewed at the end of the season.

The Southland Times