DoC takes a knock over the smart idea of having someone make a buck from its camping grounds

But the experience would be safer with a police station nearby.

A couple of camping stories grabbed Alf’s attention this morning.

First, he notes that campers are expressing outrage that the Department of Conservation is thinking about handing over camping grounds to private companies to run them at a profit.

The second is a beat-up about a couple’s unfortunate experience while camping down south. They obviously had a rough time, being abused by a bunch of nearby campers who – so far as Alf can work out – were having a good time.

Because these nearby campers were roaring pissed, by all accounts, a condition in which Southlanders often find themselves, and because the harrassed couple felt threatened, they should have buggered off much sooner and camped somewhere else.

Arguably, the place where they encountered the abuse – Piano Flat Camp – could do with a good dose of the organisation being contemplated by DOC.

The Herald on Sunday today reports on discussions between the department and a holiday parks association about coping with growing demand for campsites.

One option on the table includes handing over DoC campsites to private operators through a lease or management contract.

At present, the department charges a small nightly fee to allow the public to camp at some of the most beautiful and unspoiled spots in the country.

Good idea?

Not according to campers who say they fear that private management would ruin the DoC camp experience. More than 1000 have signed a petition to try to stop changes to existing DoC camps.

But the only ruining of the DoC camp experience that Alf can discern is that it will cost the buggers a few more bucks to camp at one of these sites.

The HoS has talked with New Zealand Holiday Parks Association chief executive Fergus Brown, who said the association was working with DoC to provide “more camping opportunities” for New Zealanders.

“We’re working with DoC to increase the capacity of provision without necessarily getting new parks,” he said.

“There’s a number of different options we can look at.”

These included “leasing them to developers who might be able to improve facilities”.

So there we have it.

Campers will pay a few more bucks but get better facilities.

Can’t say fairer than that.

Alf observes that the weasel words of a DoC spokesman do not rule out this prospect. He said there were no price increases, leases or outsourcing planned

… but they were “certainly an option” for the future.

“There has been some discussion and interest in opportunities for increased camping experiences for some time,” he said.

Maybe when the developers have built camp-sites big enough to justify it, we will be able to have police stations at each camp-site (along with a good pub, perhaps, which would make Alf think about taking Mrs Grumble on a camping holiday).

A bit of good policing would help deal with the problems encountered by a woman who claimed to have been terrorised by racist partygoers while camping on conservation land.

Lucia Alonso-Gonzalez was born in Spain but has lived in New Zealand for five years and has permanent residency. She and her partner Alan McDermott had pitched their tent at the Piano Flat camp in Southland, about 70m from a large group of families.

There were up to a dozen adults and about eight kids.

“We were talking to the children and playing with the dogs in a friendly way,” said Alonso-Gonzalez. “They seemed nice enough.”

But the couple went for a walk and when they returned hours later the adults were drinking and playing loud music.

Or having a bit of a knees-up.

At 9.30pm Alonso-Gonzalez asked them to keep it down, but was ignored.

“They were really drunk – they had been drinking the whole evening,” she said.

At midnight she tried again: ” They started screaming at me. They said, ‘We’re real Kiwis here – we’ve been here for longer than you. Come back when you’re a real Kiwi’.”

She said the group called her a “b***” and to “f*** off”.

She went back to her tent and told McDermott, who went to speak to the group and was also abused.

Trying to tell a bunch of pissed party-goers to quieten things down when they are having a good old sing-song doesn’t work at the best of times, let alone at some far-flung camp site.

And having riled them with their complaints, they were open to some form of retaliation.

The couple had two options; they could grin and bear it (not smart, when you have riled your neighbours in a remote part of the country) or they could bugger off.

They sensibly took the second option.

The couple did not feel safe so packed up in the dark and drove 48km south to Riversdale, where they slept the night of December 29 in their car with their dog.

Southland Department of Conservation officer Kelwyn Osborn said the issue was a police matter.

And Gore sergeant Sharee Winsloe said a Riversdale constable warned a man about his actions. She said DoC had been liaising with police to minimise any further occurrences.

Alf can’t get too excited.

The boozy campers probably were Southlanders and that’s how many Southlanders behave.

It’s got something to do with their diet of muttonbirds, oysters, mashed swede and Speights.

3 Responses to DoC takes a knock over the smart idea of having someone make a buck from its camping grounds

  1. I recall some years ago when a group of us were drinking Speights and eating burnt sausages, when some tourist upstart came over to remonstrate over our rowdiness in the afternoon.

    They felt that anything other than silent appreciation of such a beautiful spot was ‘inappropriate’

    It was pointed out that there were only two groups on the lakefront and they had any number of alternate sites to relocate to- and that sex and travel was the option they should take.

  2. Lucia says:

    Hi Alf,

    I am the “terrorised by racist party-goers” Spanish NZ resident in the news. I have had a good laugh reading your post. Let me promise you first that the choice of words on the title of that article was definitely not mine, as I am the same race as the people we had the “encounter” with, and the World has much more important problems to be described as “terrorizing” than having to leave a camping site because someone was too drunk to behave as a human being.

    Anyhoo, I have been told before that is “how Southlanders behave”. However, this is a DOC camping ground we are talking about, not a Southlander’s private back garden. My partner (a real Kiwi, by the way) and I had all the right to be there, we had paid our fees (something that the rowdy locals, surprise surprise, hadn’t bothered to do themselves… is this how Southlanders behave too?) and in the country I come from you don’t shut up and bear other people abusing you. I hope in New Zealand you don’t either. DOC camping rules say noise has to be kept down between 9 pm and 8 am. And it was midnight when we – very politely – suggested they turned their music down. We had no previous indication we were speaking to animals, not people. And sorry to disagree with you, but I have had lots of contact with Southlanders before and have found them to be friendly, helpful, lovely chaps. These ones in Piano Flat belonged to a completely different species, or had had their genes mutated in a funny way that made them get completely pissed in presence of their very young children, and let them witness how their parents spat out all kinds of profanity to a couple or friendly people that had been playing with them and their dogs the day before. If you really think this is how most Southandlers behave, you have a very poor image of your own folk… I certainly hope you’re wrong.

    Lovely Spanish hugs for you, Grumpy Alf 🙂


    • Alf Grumble says:

      Grumpy Alf will eagerly take the lovely Spanish hugs from Lucia, and thanks her for her reply. No, not all Southlanders behave in the way described, but the civilized ones – the Busted Blonde at Roarprawn is a good example – are apt to get out of there and head north.

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