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Camping safety concerns at Turihaua

AN EAST Coast resident is strongly opposing Gisborne District Council’s decision to allow summer camping at Turihaua.

Amelia Williams says it is unsafe to have people camping beside a state highway with only a piece of nylon or canvas separating them from vehicles travelling at 70kmh.

“I worry about the safety of the people camping there. We’ve had logs roll off trucks there, and what if a log rolled off a truck going 70kmh an hour into tents?”

There had also been car accidents on Turihaua Bridge and people had lost their lives in the bay, she said.

“Is it going to take something else horrific for the council to realise?

“I want everybody to have a beautiful summer holiday but to increase the concentration of people in that small area has a huge impact on their safety and the environment.”

Mrs Williams said lack of cellphone coverage at Turihaua or the neighbouring beach Pouawa made the situation worse. In the event of an emergency, people have to drive to Makorori Hill to get coverage to call emergency services.

“They can't get help as soon as they need it.”

Turihaua Beach and Turihaua Point are 16km from Gisborne, 2km before Pouawa Beach if you are driving from Gisborne, and have been treated differently as camping spots on the GDC website for summer camping. Turihaua Beach, the area before the bridge as you drive from Gisborne, is closed for summer camping until Boxing Day, whereas Turihaua Point was available for campers for the duration of daylight saving hours from September to April.

Safety and care for environmentMrs Williams said she was not against people enjoying their summers camping by the beach but safety was important, and campers were also not looking after the environment.

“When I lived there I would go down to the beach after the campers had left, and we would have to take a rubbish bag with us every time.

“They left behind chairs, glow sticks, drink bottles and glass bottles. I don‘t believe they should be allowing it any more.”

Gisborne District Council (GDC) director of environmental services and protection Nick Zaman said many of the coast beaches and roads did not have cellphone coverage, so they did not see that as a reason to close a beach area to camping.

Mr Zaman said there was a large sign on the side of the State Highway that indicated the permitted areas, and what dates they were open.

“There are signs that clearly state where and when you can set your campsite.

“To improve responsiveness we have arranged rostered staff to be available over the summer period. We’re also keeping customer service open during business hours during the summer break. However, keep in mind that our staff have a range of duties during the summer and not all requests for service can be responded to immediately.”

GDC recreation and amenity manager operations manager Dion Ahern said there were no plans to stop summer camping at Turihaua.

“For safety reasons, no tents or caravans are allowed to be set up within 10 metres of the edge of the highway seal and no cars, vans, buses or motor homes can park within five metres of the edge of the highway seal.

Mr Ahern said these five metre and 10 metre lines had recently been weed-sprayed at Turihaua and Pouawa to help campers identify the boundaries.

“The summer camping sites will be checked at the end of the season for any leftover rubbish, and rubbish removed accordingly. We are trying our best to encourage campers to use their assigned rubbish bags, and place these at the designated rubbish drop off points within the camping sites.

“While it’s slightly more convenient for some campers to place their rubbish bags on the roadside directly opposite their campsite, it’s unsafe for our contractors to stop on the side of SH35 to collect these.”

Mr Ahern said they greatly appreciate campers leaving their rubbish at the designated drop off points for their contractors to collect.

HOMES AWAY FROM HOME: With Daylight Saving well under way, campers are set to park their caravans and erect their tents at the district’s various summer camping sites including Turihaua. The official camping season runs to April 7, 2019. Picture by Paul Rickard