Many visitors to Frankton’s council ‘hub’ used the free services then camped illegally, a veteran holiday park operator reckons.
Erna Spijkerbosch, who owns or operates six holiday parks throughout the Queenstown Lakes, says she still does not understand why the council provided free showers, toilets and other services to travellers in supposedly self-contained vehicles over the summer.
She believes a significant number visited the Hawthorne Drive hub then found a “quiet place” to park overnight, meaning the environment continued to suffer.
“Because they’re not fully self-contained, even though they’ve got the sticker, they’ve still got to poo in the bushes.”
Council figures show an average of 44 vehicles a day visited the hub between November and March.
It provided free toilets, showers, wi-fi, rubbish bins and a dump station to travellers daily from 8am to 8pm.
The hub, another in Wanaka, as well as council-managed camp sites in Kingston and Luggate, were part of a summer trial funded by a one-off $530,000 grant from the government.
The council’s chief rationale was to collect data about freedom campers to inform the continuing roll-out of its ‘responsible camping strategy’, which it passed last October.
Spijkerbosch says unlike their counterparts on the other side of the Crown Range, commercial holiday park operators in Queenstown did not appear to have lost business as a result of the Frankton hub or Kingston camp site.
Her Queenstown Holiday Park Creeksyde in Robins Rd had a “good summer”, with the added benefit of fewer people using its showers without paying.
But she’s skeptical of the value of the data collected at the hubs, and says there’s been no consultation with Queenstown operators either before or since the past camping season.
Council community services general manager Thunes Cloete says the trial was an overall success and a “great starting point on our road to addressing the concerns raised by irresponsible camping behaviour”.
The number of complaints about freedom camping declined from the previous season, Cloete says.
The council controversially plans to redevelop the Frankton Motor Camp, home to more than 100 permanent or temporary residents, into a 200-site camping ground in time for the 2020-2021 summer.
The much-loved motor camp’s existing council lease expires on August 31.
Council figures show it issued 1843 infringement notices to freedom campers during the past summer – about the same number as the summer before.