Rentals for the top 10 most popular "Bach Escapes" in Auckland regional parks are going up by 15 per cent, though summer holiday peak rates of $168 to $222 a night are still modest compared with those expected by private owners.
After a review of fees for camping and baches, Auckland Council's parks, recreation and sport committee decided to raise prices for the most heavily booked of its 21 rental holiday cottages and to cut prices by 10 per cent for those least used in the more remote spots.
Committee chairwoman Christine Fletcher believed the charges were modest and fair. The fees were well below market rates and revenue would not meet all the operational costs.
"There is a healthy tension between continuing to ensure these magnificent properties are accessible and at the same time not be a drain on council finances."
Next up for review would be the method of allocating them to the public, she said.
Presently, you cannot book a parks cottage any earlier than six months ahead.
Those wanting to ensure a booking, for example, for the maximum one-week stay in the December holidays, would have to be quick off the mark when bookings were accepted from June 1.
"It's first in, first served," said Mrs Fletcher. "While it's lovely to see people in the queue at the Civic Building on that morning, it's only those in the know, and does that represent an exclusive elite?
"The next step will be making allocation as fair as we can possibly make it."
This year, the council will add two renovated properties to the Bach Escape network, which ranges from two-bedroom cottages - some only accessible by boat or kayak - to large homesteads capable of sleeping 14 people.
Margi Watson, a mother of two school-aged children in the West Auckland suburb of Waterview opposes Auckland Council's plan to earn an extra $100,000 a year by raising fees.
"I believe parks should remain as affordable as possible for the community to have access to the splendour and unique opportunities of the park network," said Ms Watson.
A parks committee decision to review fees means an adult with four children pays $39 for a night in a tent, or $168 in its most popular baches.
The committee agreed to fees rising from $13 to $15 a night for adults but held it to $6 for children - at camping grounds with road access.
"That's not affordable for a lot of people," said Ms Watson, who said she had stayed in Moonlight Cottage in Scandrett Regional Park, which has gone up from $146 to $168 because it is solidly booked.
"If they're really popular we want as many people as possible to experience them."
Ms Watson said the Bach Escape concept was unique, catering for people who couldn't afford to own a bach or rent one in beach beauty spots like the Tawharanui Regional Park.
"Where else can you go if you live in Auckland and go for a walk at night and have kiwi pass by you? We do lots of swimming, bush walks, walks up headlands, see farm life and go fishing."
Ms Watson, who is a member of the Albert-Eden Local Board but is not speaking on its behalf, said the cost of park stays should not be compared to market rates.
Regional parks manager Richard Hollier said most camping fees had not increased since 2011 and the latest rise didn't disadvantage families.
Beach on the cheap
Auckland regional parks rentals, per night, from July 1
Standard bach: $168 peak, $112 off peak, average market rent $195-
Homestead: $222 peak, $168 off peak, average market $245-$420.
Remote bach: $109 peak, $65 off peak, average market $150-$250.
The baches were inherited over time as the council brought farms and transformed the land into regional parks. Any houses on the land were renovated and made available for rent, rather than being removed.
Source: Auckland Council