Bid to stop campers damaging facilities

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Waitaki and Waimate District Councils, police and Waitaki’s Community Safety co-ordinator met yesterday to address ongoing issues over Labour Weekend at camping facilities at the Waitaki Lakes Camping areas.

While Waitaki police noted a relatively quiet Labour Weekend, the Waimate District did not get off as lightly, with young partygoers causing extensive damage to the Briar’s Gully camping area.

Waitaki District Council recreation manager Erik van der Spek said after reoccurring issues, the Waitaki Lakes campground supervisor had turned numbers of youth away from camping at their regular spots this year.

“He turned away a number of youths who were aiming to get inebriated,” Mr van der Spek said.

“He didn’t turn all youths away, just those who he knew to have been problems in the past.”

As a result, they moved on to the Waimate District and converged on the Briar’s Gully camping area where some campers proceeded to smash the toilet, light fires with couches and wheelie bins, and litter a large area with broken glass and rubbish. The damage and clean-up costs totalled about $4000.

Waimate District Council parks and reserves manager Graeme Watts said the two councils, Community Safety co-ordinator Helen Algar and police met yesterday to look at and discuss ways of managing the behaviour of young people at the Waitaki Lakes Camping areas.

Mr Watts said that all parties were working together to address issues that occurred during Labour Weekend at Briar’s Gully, and will be looking at several initiatives for the coming camping season.

Mr van der Spek said they were also planning to approach Environment Canterbury for assistance.

“We need to be able to manage the issue around the youths,” he said.

“We’re continuing to look at issues going forward into the Christmas and New Year period.”

However, it was Labour Weekend, in particular, that was the problem, he said, citing more parental supervision over the Christmas and New Year periods.

This year, underage drinking did not appear to have been a major issue, with most destructive partygoers over the age of 18, heading to the Lakes “looking for something to do as habit”.

Kurow police Constable Craig Bennett agreed that high school students were not the problem.

Those responsible for the “mess and trouble” were usually a little bit older, and only made up about 10 per cent of the young camping community, Constable Bennett said.

“They’re the ones who were lighting the fires, threw couches onto the fires and wheelie bins,” he said.

“The majority of the kids were well behaved. It’s that 10 per cent that give them the bad name.”

Signs were also placed around the traditional youth camping spots on the Waitaki District, displaying “No Youth Camping at following sites: Loch Laird Lakeside Family Area, Wildlife Reserve, Boat Harbour, Parsons Rock, Sailors Cutting”.

Among the reasons for no youth camping stated on the sign were health and safety issues with broken glass in the ground, wilful damage of grass areas, vandalism of toilets, underage drinking and repeated fire callouts.

By Rebecca Ryan