This summer was the “oddest” season Waitaki district camping supervisor Simon Fox has experienced in his 16 years in the role.

The Waitaki Lakes camping season comes to a close this Sunday.

The Waitaki District Council’s six camping sites battled through major flooding events, no international tourists, and restricted numbers at some sites during the 2020/21 season.

Season tickets for Falstone Creek, Sailors Cutting and Boat Harbour had sold out by November, and casual camping was not allowed at those grounds from December 20 to January 10. It made things “a wee bit slow” through the Christmas period, with fewer visitors, Mr Fox said.

“While it appeared busy at some spots . . . on the whole, I think it was not as busy as what it normally was because people were restricted,” he said.

About 600 people camped at Loch Laird and Parsons Rock sites from Boxing Day to January 3, but there was a reduced number of permanent campers during that time. Many chose to go camping after the peak season, he said.

“Easter weekend, it was very busy everywhere – it was more like Christmas normally is, which is what we like.”

The new restrictions came as a result of Covid-19, and the Ohau fire. While they presented some challenges, the council made the right decision, he said.

“The council delivered it really, really well . . . but I think it affected a few people that had probably been holidaying or camping at Christmas and having those five special days together,” he said.

“You were dealing with people that had just been through a lot of displacement and people that had been through a lot of uncertainty and then all of a sudden a lot of them were told they couldn’t come to the lakes.”

It had been noticeably quieter at some camping grounds, but there was an influx of North Island families and retired couples staying at the lakes.

They were impressed by the hospitality, commenting on the affordable pricing for people to leave their caravans at the lakes for the season.

He believed Covid-19 played its part in the season for both campers and management.

“They weren’t sure what would happen. And to credit the council, they put portaloos everywhere they thought they needed them for the extra numbers, but it just didn’t happen, really.”

There were a lot more campervans at the council’s grounds – many visiting the Waitaki Valley to ride the new section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail – and those who stayed at the camp grounds were fantastic, Mr Fox said.

“There seemed to be no hassle with people around the lakes this year.

“I’m really lucky  – we’ve got good people on the Waitaki Lakes.”