Brash says carry on camping

By Anne Beston, Kevin Taylor

National wants the Department of Conservation to open 25 new campgrounds and keep the classic Kiwi holiday alive, as developers buy up prime sites.

National leader Don Brash said DoC had more than 8 million hectares, including more than 6000km of coastline.

"National is determined to protect this iconic part of Kiwi culture and lifestyle by ensuring the provision of camping grounds that will not be sold," he said, announcing the plan at the Tropicana campground at Whangarei Heads.

The privately owned camping ground is due to close on April 15 after 33 years, so a developer can build 20 houses.

It is one of more than 20 camp grounds around the country shut down in the past three years as coastal land prices boom. It is understood to have sold for around $2 million.

Dr Brash said such closures were inevitable as private property owners cashed in on rising property prices.

"We have no issue with campground owners legitimately exercising their property rights to sell or change the use of their land."

Last year DoC completed a year-long review of its recreational facilities, with an extra $349 million over the next 10 years for their upkeep, but of the 2500 public submissions, none requested more camping grounds.

"We've focused on tracks and huts and campgrounds are not part of that programme but they could be in the future," said Conservation Minister Chris Carter.

He added that Dr Brash's plan was "not a bad idea" but said it would require extra cash over and above last year's funding.

DoC closed four camp grounds as part of last year's review because they were either too close together, flooded or had few visitors.

Dr Brash said National envisaged DoC would lease the land for the camping grounds to private operators who would bear the cost of setting them up. He did not have a view on where they should be located.

Of the 250 DoC-run campgrounds nationally, six are run by private operators.

National would also review the regulatory requirements on privately owned camping grounds.

The sale of the Tropicana coincides with news that Joy Ann Stockwell, the former wife of Hollywood star Dean Stockwell, has been given permission from the Overseas Investment Commission to buy three pieces of Whangarei land, including the Blue Heron Holiday Park.

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa spokesman Murray Horton said the two sales highlighted how coastal land was getting out of reach of ordinary Northlanders.

"I have concerns about land that is traditionally being used for camping grounds becoming the private playgrounds of the rich, be they from New Zealand or overseas."

- additional reporting: NZPA

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