A proposed low-cost campground aimed at freedom campers near Taupō Airport has been given the thumbs down.

The chairman of the Taupō Airport Authority Committee said he liked the concept, but the airport was not the right place for it.

The couple behind Kiwi Camp Taupō said they were keen to keep progressing it and would look for another site elsewhere.

Bev Roberts and Paul Dingle, the former operators of Action World near the airport, were planning to turn the Action World site into a Kiwi Camp campground.

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A Kiwi Camp ablution block with Kiwi Cash readers above the sinks used to pay for hot water. Photo / Kiwi Camp
A Kiwi Camp ablution block with Kiwi Cash readers above the sinks used to pay for hot water. Photo / Kiwi Camp

The Kiwi Camp system was the brainchild of Blenheim entrepreneur Chris Wagner.

It was a self-serve campground targeted at freedom campers which operated via a cashless payment system where campers purchased a 'Kiwicash' card to access a campsite and use the facilities.

Wagner has already set up a Kiwi Camp in Blenheim and was looking to expand the network nationwide.

The proposed Kiwi Camp at Taupō Airport would have had space for 75 vehicles or sites and a maximum occupancy of 150 people.

It would have been mostly unstaffed, although staff were expected to be on site a couple of times a day during peak periods and once daily off-peak.

The camp would have needed resource and building consents from the Taupō District Council, a resource consent from the Waikato Regional Council and would have to comply with campground regulations.

There was already one campground near the airport for New Zealand Motor Caravan Association members with self-contained vehicles, which has operated without issues for several years.

The Taupō Airport Authority Committee was asked to consider whether it would support a Kiwi Camp at the site at its meeting last week but decided to decline the operation.

A report from Taupō District Council's head of economic development and business transformation John Ridd said the major concern for the Taupō Airport Authority was safety, particularly airside, and whether the campground was an activity it wanted within the airport boundary.

"It should be noted that although the demographics are different there is a similar operation adjacent to the one proposed. The preferred option is to approve the activity as long as all the consenting issues are addressed," the report stated.

However, Taupō Airport Authority Committee chairman Chris Johnston said the committee felt having a campground so close to the airport was too risky.

"If you put everything together as a collective, most of the risks were medium to high and as an airport authority we thought it was prudent not to push the envelope and have something that's not core airport business."

Johnston said the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association's camping area was used by self-sufficient campers who were a different demographic from those expected to use the Kiwi Camp.

"We think the [Kiwi Camp] concept's great in terms of solving a potential issue with freedom camping but probably the airport isn't the ideal spot to put it.

"But we'd love to see that concept somewhere because it would put some controls on the sliding door campers because there's some monitoring on who comes in and it allows control of the type of campers who do cause environmental damage to the community."

Bev Roberts of Action World said she and Paul were disappointed with the committee's decision after putting a lot of time and money into their application.

However, they planned to keep pursuing the concept as it was a great way of addressing concerns about freedom camping and council representatives at the meeting had encouraged them to look elsewhere for a suitable site.

"If one door closes another will open and hopefully it'll be even better," she said.

"We're just really keen to get an environmentally sustainable option for freedom campers that still fits their requirements and that is low cost."

The Action World lease would expire at the end of this month and the pair have already begun removing all the infrastructure.

Chris Wagner of Kiwi Camp said there were four more Kiwi Camp sites expected to be operating by this summer, with another 15 to 20 the year following, all in the South Island, although he would like to expand them to the North Island too.

"With our system you can build infrastructure to a really high standard and have it paying its way."

Kiwi Camp

* Aimed at young budget conscious travellers, predominantly non self-contained freedom campers.
* A basic service facility for travellers that is safe, secure and clean.
* Cost is proposed to be $5 per night per person which provides a secure place to park, with rubbish, recycling, cold water and flushing toilets.
* Other facilities on site could include showers, hot water for dishwashing, washing machines and dryers, charging points and barbecues but they would be paid for using smart payment technology.
* Travellers could park overnight or use stop in and use facilities such as showering and rubbish disposal then move on.
* The Kiwi Cash system could also be used to access privately-owned amenities such as showers and toilets.
Source: www.kiwicamp.nz.