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Marlborough Express - 2021-11-26

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Camping rangers backed with funding

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The monitoring of freedom camping in Marlborough will be paid for by the council this summer, where recently it has been funded by the Government. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) committed funding to help councils manage freedom camping for the past three years but has pulled the funding for this coming summer. In Marlborough, the council used the money to employ a freedom camping ranger to monitor and educate those using the council’s five freedom camping sites. This year, funding for the ranger will not be available through central Government, so the council has agreed to pull $70,000 out of the land and forestry account. A ministry spokesperson said councils across New Zealand were informed in August, advising them funding was being discontinued. ‘‘MBIE’S investment in responsible camping initiatives for local councils was a short-term programme and has ended,’’ the spokesperson said. The Marlborough District Council has five freedom camping sites: Renwick Domain, Taylor River Dam, Wynen St car park, Lake Elterwater Reserve and the Wairau Diversion. The diversion is currently closed due to flood damage caused in July. At an assets and services meeting on November 11, councillors agreed to continue funding the monitoring of freedom camping sites. Marlborough mayor John Leggett said there was an opportunity to revisit the budget in the future, should the council need to. ‘‘I think it is really important that we look at these as interventions. It is not set in concrete,’’ Leggett said. ‘‘We can increase the budget.’’ A report prepared for the meeting set out three options for monitoring the sites – based on how many people used the sites. One option was to monitor sites based on demand, and the number of complaints received, at a cost of $20,000. Another option was to monitor the site for four hours a day, seven days a week. But the committee went with ‘‘option one’’, the most expensive option. This would see sites monitored from 6am to 10am and 6pm to 10pm, between the start of December and the end of March. ‘‘It is not a hard decision for me. I think option one is a decision we make. We need to make sure we perform in that area as a council,’’ Leggett said. The report said the number of international visitors to the region that were camping had decreased due to closed borders, which meant a higher number of Kiwis were recorded as staying at Marlborough’s freedom camping sites. Councillor Cynthia Brooks said the argument for the $70,000 budget was ‘‘quite compelling’’. The funding is subject to approval by full council, which is to meet on December 9.

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