September 2006
The Minister of Conservation asked DOC to review the availability of family-friendly camping opportunities for New Zealanders. Read the resulting report.

Executive summary

1.1 Background

The sale and subsequent closure of iconic coastal campgrounds has attracted significant public attention over recent years. This trend appears to be increasing as development pressures on the coastal margin intensify, particularly in the upper North Island.

In January 2006, the Minister of Conservation asked the Department of Conservation (DOC) to “review the availability of family-friendly camping opportunities for New Zealanders, particularly in coastal areas”.

This report is intended as a catalyst for further discussion. To that end, it lays out the issues and options, but does not offer recommendations. Rather, it provides the basis for discussions with the camping industry, local communities and government that will identify appropriate and sustainable solutions which can be implemented at a local level.

The review has been co-ordinated by the Department of Conservation and involved representatives of a wide range of organisations and individuals with an interest in New Zealand’s camping sector.

1.2 Government themes

Providing camping opportunities in New Zealand is a key component of the Government’s three themes:

  • Economic transformation
  • National identity
  • Families – young and old

1.3 The demand for camping

The review has found that:

  • Demand for camping has remained constant over the past decade, and has the potential to increase.
  • More than one-third of all New Zealanders go camping, and 57% have an interest in going camping.
  • There is strong demand for camping in the upper North Island, reflecting the concentration of New Zealand’s population.

1.4 The nature of the problem

  • Increasing land values, particularly in coastal areas, have resulted in a number of commercial holiday parks / camping grounds being sold and the sites redeveloped for other uses.
  • The result is a 6% reduction over the past 10 years in the number of camping areas nationally, particularly affecting prime locations with a water frontage (New Zealanders’ preferred camping areas).
  • The areas most affected are among New Zealand’s most popular camping destinations: Coromandel Peninsula, Greater Auckland, East Coast / Hawke’s Bay, Rotorua / Central North Island and Waikato / Bay of Plenty regions.
  • If land values continue to increase, closures of commercial holiday parks / camping grounds are likely in other parts of the country.
  • Even without further closures, many camping areas in these popular regions are already at capacity between Christmas and early January.

1.5 Options available

  • A number of options exist to meet current and future demands, deal with the reduction in the number of camping areas and manage peak demand over the Christmas period. These include:
  • Extending the network of camping areas on public conservation land, including providing opportunities for private operators to enter lease arrangements.
  • Establishing a fund to purchase prime camping areas in public ownership.
  • Reviewing the Camping Grounds Regulations 1985 to enable other organisations to provide basic camping opportunities similar to those provided by DOC.
  • Encouraging existing camping areas to expand onto adjacent land over peak periods.
  • Encouraging camping on sports fields, open space reserves and rural school grounds over the peak season, where there is clear demand.
  • Providing the New Zealand public with better and more accessible information about camping opportunities.

No single solution will address all issues identified in this report. The review found that the most effective way to retain the current range and distribution of camping opportunities is to consider a suite of potential options.

The best outcome will encourage and sustain diversity – of operators, types of camping areas and geographic locations. Diversity will lead to a more resilient and robust sector as no one issue will be able to undermine the entire camping sector, better ensuring its long term viability. This diversity will also better meet the needs of campers, as not all campers are alike.

1.6 Structure of this report

Section 2.0 of the report describes the purpose of the review, its scope and the approach taken by DOC.

Section 3.0 presents background information to describe the context of camping in New Zealand today. This covers its importance to New Zealanders, current and future demand, and the nature of the problem that sparked this review.

Section 4.0 presents the various options available to address the issues. It is expected that these will form the substance of ongoing discussions with the camping industry, local communities and government.

The appendices provide additional background information where this is relevant to support specific options presented. They include the place of camping in the Kiwi culture and the demand for it, a description of all current facilities, and a summary of facilities provided by DOC.

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