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Residents push for reopening of Hakatere campsite

Residents push for reopening of Hakatere campsite
Hakatere Huts residents presented a petition to the council calling for the removal of bollards to restore access to the upper Hakatere picnic area and for it to be reinstated as a campground. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Hakatere Huts residents angry over a campsite being closed and blocked by bollards are hopeful of reaching a compromise with council.

Boasting "million-dollar views", the Mid-Canterbury coastal settlement at the Ashburton/Hakatere River mouth splits into two parts - upper and lower.

The community wasn't consulted when wooden bollards were installed in February 2023 to block vehicle access, while the campsite was closed in Upper Hakatere.

Residents presented a petition with 94 signatures to the Ashburton District Council on Wednesday to consider removing the bollards from the Upper Hakatere Reserve and that it be reinstated as a camping ground.

In response to the petition, a working group will be formed to discuss the issues and possible solutions.

Spokesperson Gary Clancy told the councillors that residents were “shocked and disappointed” at the unannounced changes that occurred in 2023.

“The reserve has been the centrepiece of Hakatere recreational reserve for over half a century, consistently popular with a million-dollar view of the ocean and river mouth,” Clancy said.

“The most common question frustrated Hakatere people are asking is why were we not consulted?”

Residents were told the decision to prohibit camping and install bollards was an operational decision by council management.

“Consultation with the Hakatere community should have occurred, like the Balmoral Hall, like the Tinwald pool."

Removing or relocating the bollards for safer parking and realistic access to the area “is a sensible first step”, Clancy said.

Hakatere residents wanted a conversation about the changes, which should have happened to begin with, Clancy said.

“It’s not too late to talk.”

Mayor Neil Brown agreed and suggested forming a working group to discuss solutions.

Nods from the Hakatere residents in attendance were enough for Brown to feel it was a suitable path forward and “there will probably have to be a compromise in there somewhere”.

Councillors Tony Todd, Lynette Lovett and Richard Wilson, along with relevant staff, will represent the council in a working group with three resident representatives.

Councillor Carolyn Cameron had noted her concerns around the decision-making and engagement process to reach this point and hoped the issue could be resolved quickly by the working group.

Business support group manager Leanne Macdonald said that in January 2023 staff felt the right call was made and it didn’t warrant consultation, but acknowledged things could have been handled differently.

The decision was made due to safety risks from erosion and in response to a series of complaints.

The erosion issues had already been addressed by a fence and the complaints were a weak reason for the council’s actions, Clancy said.

Only four reported incidents of human waste issues over several years were “hardly an epidemic” and the other complaints were “not compelling reasons for closure”, Clancy said.

By Jonathan Leask