Local iwi and the Department of Conservation (DOC) are working together in a bid to clean up Te Toto Gorge of what is described as “visitors defecating, leaving rubbish and lighting fires”.

In an unexpected move, DOC has taken the first steps in placing a total ban on freedom camping at the Whaanga Coast site.
Raglan resident Heather Thomson said the issue came to light when runners, including her sister Lisa, and Ruapuke residents complained about the situation she refers to as “one of repugnance and disgust.”

“Basically Lisa brought it to the attention of DOC,” Heather said.

A meeting was held between DOC’s Jack DeThierry and 4 local iwi representatives back in July.

As a result of this meeting, Heather put forward a formal proposal to DOC and requested “close monitoring coupled with increased signage be undertaken to help mitigate this deplorable situation.”

“We are adversely affected by such behaviour, it diminishes the mauri of the area and as a consequence it’s people,” the proposal says.
The proposal goes on to say that restrictions on freedom campers “ would not be injurious in any way to over-nighters given that managed camping sites are less than 15 minutes on either side of Te Toto Carpark.”

Mr DeThierry responded to the proposal saying that DOC would follow steps towards the prohibition of freedom camping according to the Freedom Camping Act – 2011.

“A prohibition of freedom camping at Te Toto Gorge car park has also been endorsed by the Waikato Conservation Board at their recent meeting which is a requirement of the Freedom Camping Act,” Mr DeThierry’s response says.

Heather said that although the result was a surprise, it was a sensible outcome.
“I didn’t think that they would prohibit it completely, however I think it’s the only sensible outcome, we cannot have some camping and some not.”

Marcia Ahern