Host to generations of Auckland children on their first camping experience, Stedfast Park has a new name and is negotiating with Auckland's new council to steadfastly carry on. Natalie Tims reports.
Nestled against the Waitakere Ranges' Centennial Park in Piha, Stedfast Park has been a camp for high school children and the public since the 1960s. A kilometre from Piha Beach, it was bought by the former Auckland Regional Council in 2009 and has been leased by Carey Park, a camp in Henderson Valley, since 2006.
With the lease running out in September, concerns were raised about Carey Park's ability to renew it under the new Auckland Council. Worries were also raised on whether proposed changes by the former regional council, such as giving the camp a new name, would be carried out.
"Carey Park has been progressive in taking leadership in children's camps," says its board chairman, Eric Jackson. "We're a well-managed organisation with competent staff which aims to provide a safe, outdoor experience for children living in the city.
"However, the future of Stedfast Park as a viable campsite must be negotiated."
Before the council's successful tender for the 8.3ha site in 2009, the camp had been owned and managed by Auckland Boys' Brigade, which bought it from a private owner in 1984.
Named Stedfast Park after the Boys' Brigade motto "sure and steadfast", its unusual spelling hails from the brigade's beginnings in 1854.
Under the regional council, the camp's name was changed last year to Piha Mill Camp, a reference to the former kauri mill on which Stedfast Park stands. However, many people still use the old name.
Mr Jackson says he is pleased with the camp's developments in the two years the regional council has owned it, which include upgrades to the ablutions block and water supply and a new kitchen.
"We are taking bookings two years in advance at Stedfast Park from schools around Auckland," says Carey Park operations manager Colin Yearsley.
"The reason we took on the lease at Stedfast Park is due to the amount of schools we had to turn away each year at Carey Park because we couldn't meet the demand for camps," he says.
The council's manager of regional and specialist parks, Mace Ward, believes the present council's vision is similar to the former regional council's. "To offer a venue for school and community camps which include team activities and ecological education opportunities."
At the time of writing, Auckland Council extended Carey Park's lease for another 12 months to honour advance school bookings.
"Generations of people have come through the camp and we want to see that continue," says Mr Jackson.
Mr Ward says the council's Regional Parks Management Plan provides for development of Piha Mill Camp. "There are many compliance requirements today which can make camping difficult," says Mr Jackson, "and Carey Park is doing its best to make an outdoor experience affordable for kids living in urban situations."
More info, see: www.careypark.co.nz
Piha Beach, the popular West Auckland surf spot, derives its name from the Maori word describing the pattern of ripples a canoe's prow forms as it glides through the water, a phenomenon set off by the waves breaking against the beach's famous landmark, Lion Rock.