Queenstown council to quit high-end camp sites

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Queenstown’s council is quitting campgrounds which compete with private sector operations – but ensuring facilities remain for the great Kiwi holiday.
 
Queenstown Lakes District Council decided – behind closed doors this week – to adopt new principles to guide its involvement in campground sites. 

Councillors voted not to operate camping facilities which compete with equivalent or greater sites run by the private sector – and which require ratepayer subsidies. 

However, this doesn’t mean council will entirely rid itself of campground involvement – they also voted to ensure traditional Kiwi camping facilities remain in the district to provide affordable accommodation. 

The decisions come after a review of council-run and leased camp sites. 

A further detailed report is to be done outlining preferred options for the future and scale of council involvement in campground management – that’s due by June 30. 

Council chief executive Adam Feeley says this report will include recommendations for delivering reduced costs at its four main holiday parks in Queenstown, Wanaka, Arrowtown and Glendhu Bay. 

It will also consider commercial options for the private sector to provide camping facilities at these sites, if viable. 

Other recommendations to be considered will be whether to continue providing traditional Kiwi camping facilties at Albert Town and Lake Hawea and “rationalisation” of commercial arrangements at Frankton, Luggate and Lake Outlet Wanaka. 

Of the just-completed review which started in December, Feeley says: “In general the review found that financial performance is mixed and in some cases camps lose money and visitor accommodation is effectively being subsidised by ratepayers. 

“Some of the ‘higher end’ holiday parks accommodation, although of an excellent standard, appear to be in direct competition with the private sector,” Feeley says. 

Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden says although council has agreed to consider reducing the scale and manner of council-operated camps, council remains committed to access for everyone to affordable camping in the area. 

“Council’s intention to provide traditional, affordable ‘Kiwi’ camps – as identified in the 2005/06 review and revisited in 2011/12 – has not waivered as a result of this week’s decision,” she says. 

Grassed sites for tents and campervans with good standards of communal amenities are a Kiwi tradition which the council intends to maintain on a cost-effective basis, she says. 

“But we consider we’re not in the business of providing high-end additional accommodation and services which aren’t cost-effective and which take revenue from rate-paying businesses.” 

Feeley adds: “Not only were some camps running at a loss but outstanding debt also had to be factored. 

“We’ve invested over $11 million of capital infrastructure to date in our district camp grounds, and it would not be prudent fiscal management to continue that investment when the ability to service greater debt would be, at best, financially marginal,” he says. 

Back in December, as the campground review began, veteran local businesswoman Erna Spijkerbosch – owner of Creeksyde Queenstown Holiday Park – said as it stood council was effectively competing with ratepayers like her and should get out of larger operations. 

The council managed sites are Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park, Arrowtown Campground, Albert Park Campground, Glendhu Bay Campground and Wanaka Campground. 

The council leases campgrounds to private operators or clubs commercially at Luggate, Frankton and Lake Hawea. 

The newly-adopted campground policy has been discussed with council’s existing campground staff, who are also subject of a wider council organisational review.