Farmer may buy land that includes Ohau C campsite

FOR SALE: The popular Ohau C camping ground at the head of Lake Benmore, may be sold to an adjoining farmer.
FOR SALE: The popular Ohau C camping ground at the head of Lake Benmore, may be sold to an adjoining farmer.

A high country farmer is considering purchasing one of the most popular campsites in the Upper Waitaki Valley.

The Herald has obtained documents revealing that Glencairn Station owner Ben Aubrey has applied to the Commissioner of Crown Lands to purchase a 920 hectare section, which included the Ohau C camp ground.

Mr Aubrey said yesterday that if he bought the land, the popular camp site would remain.

"We intend to keep running it and ensure it's in good condition for people who camp there."

The camping ground resulted from a land settlement of property acquired under the Public Works Act when the hydro-power scheme was built on the Waitaki River 50 years ago.

Mr Aubrey manages the camp ground under the licence of the Waitaki District Council. He was discussing the proposed purchase with Land Information New Zealand (Linz).

"We haven't got to the stage of signing anything yet," Mr Aubrey said.

The 920ha of Crown land proposed for sale is largely made up of the old Ohau riverbed and terraces. Mr Aubrey said if he was able to purchase the land, most of it would be farmed. He said before the hydroworks project, much of the land had been owned or leased by his father.

Linz offered the district council the chance to own the campsite outright, but the council declined.

Waitaki District Council property manager Dougall McIntyre said the council did not consider purchasing the Ohau C campsite because of concerns about the cost.

"The council already has 19 camping grounds that have been vested to it, or leased to people who manage them," he said.

Mr McIntyre said the council's camping grounds were spread throughout the district, and included Lake Middleton, Sailors Cutting, Otematata and Loch Laird.

However, documents obtained by the Herald suggest the council originally intended for the campsite to be vested to it and "set apart as a recreational reserve" .

A couple of years ago the council introduced a $5 fee to use the boat ramp at the campsite. Mr McIntyre said it would be "up to the discretion of the owner" whether the fee would remain.

Linz Crown property land manager Bill Naik said it was consulting several groups - including the Conservation Department, Meridian Energy, New Zealand Walking Access and Environment Canterbury - about the proposed sale.

The Timaru Herald