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20/07/2018 8:00 a.m.
Managing visitor pressures a priority for Mackenzie and Waitaki basins working group
A working group of land management agencies in the Mackenzie and Waitaki basins has been established to develop solutions to collaboratively manage camping ahead of the 2018/19 summer tourist season.
Big skies, big landscapes and jaw-dropping scenery has seen the Mackenzie and Waitaki basins experience significant growth as a visitor destination. This increase in visitor demand has created significant pressures on local communities and organisations tasked with managing land in the area.
Piloting a new regional approach to manage camping, Mackenzie District and Waitaki District councils are working alongside Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and New Zealand Transport Agency to form the Mackenzie and Waitaki Basins Responsible Camping Strategy Working Group.
The group is tasked with identifying quick-win solutions to immediately mitigate camping pressures ahead of summer through a camping strategy for the 2018/19 summer season, implementing the recommendations of the strategy by Labour Weekend and monitoring the implementation of the strategy until April 2019.
The group’s chair, Mackenzie District Council chief executive Suzette van Aswegen, said the working group will prioritise infrastructure requirements and installation at sites such as Ahuriri Bridge, Lake Poaka and at Lake Wardell in the coming weeks.
“The focus is changing from freedom camping to responsible camping and, as such, we’ll also look at other options to manage camping demand, such as increased compliance checks and better education of visitors,” Ms van Aswegen said. “We want to ensure the best possible outcomes for the entire region and have already taken steps to secure funding to prioritise work to ensure our visitor hotspots are protected for everyone to enjoy.”
Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power said the group will look at solutions across the basins, as opposed to each agency concentrating on its individual organisational boundaries.
“This joined-up approach will allow us to look at solutions across the region and to more efficiently utilise funding to help manage visitor pressures in the short-term. It will seek improved conservation outcomes, to achieve high-quality visitor experiences, and support regions and communities to lift their wellbeing through well-planned visitor-related activities.”
Ms van Aswegen said while the working group’s focus is on short term camping solutions, future work will see a collaborative 20 to 30-year strategy developed to manage long-term visitor pressures while allowing communities to leverage opportunities from tourism.
The first meeting of the Mackenzie and Waitaki Basins Responsible Camping Strategy Working Group will take place on Monday, July 23 in Timaru.