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Ambassador initiative a hit with campers

The Mahia Ambassador initiative has been a summertime hit, resulting in a huge increase in camping compliance, Wairoa District Council says.

Wairoa District Council chief executive Steven May said the programme has been a major success for all concerned with campers complying and locations being left in pristine condition.

Mr May became aware of other Councils utilising the ambassador initiative effectively and, following a successful Central Government funding application, the initiative was launched locally.

The grant has paid for ambassadors for the Mahia Peninsula for the summer period of 2019/20 and aims to provide visitors with the best services that the Council is able to, leading to a more positive experience.

“Since the start of the ambassador patrol, I have had nothing but favourable constructive comments both from visitors (campers) and members of the Mahia community.”

The council partnered with local iwi organisations, Rongomaiwahine Iwi Trust and Mahia Maori Committee, to develop and implement the Freedom Camping Ambassador initiative.

“The Freedom Camping Ambassador Programme is also about managing the expectations of locals.

“Sometimes we receive feedback from Mahia locals about freedom campers and day trippers from other parts of the district to Mahia, and the ambassador programme was about ensuring we were responding appropriately to the concerns of locals.

“This is why it was important for us to partner with local organisations.”

Ambassadors monitored campsites, rubbish, recycling and toilet facilities with an education and visitor experience focus.

“At Mahia, four Ambassadors, three full-time and one casual, have been working seven-days a week.

“Their obvious love of Mahia and their pride at what Mahia has to offer visitors has emanated in their approach to campers in a positive and helpful way.”

Mr May said their friendly approach has seen a dramatic drop of around 75 percent less infringement notices being issued when compared to last summer.

“The Ambassadors, combined with an upgrade of signage which clearly shows where you can and cannot camp, has been very successful.

“The ambassadors report back to Council so any issues can be dealt with in a timely manner. They also report on levels of rubbish in the area, and the conditions of the toilets.”

Rongomaiwahine Iwi Trust chief executive Moana Rongo said while an important aim of the initiative is to ensure visitors have an enjoyable stay at Mahia; the key is that campers understand where the allocated camping areas are situated in order to “safeguard our wahi tapu and the integrity of our whenua”.

Mr May said the initiative has been about providing the best service possible to make the Mahia visitor experience as positive as we can.

“We would hope this initiative will continue into the future, but that will be subject to further funding.”