Iconic Queenstown-Wānaka campgrounds go to Aussie operator
An Australian campsite operator is set to take over the lease for five of the Southern Lakes most treasured campgrounds.
Hampshire Holiday Parks Limited has received approval by the Overseas Investment Office to acquire the right to run Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park, Arrowtown Holiday Park, Wānaka Lakeview Holiday Park, Albert Town Camp Ground, and Glendhu Motor Camp.
But the decision-makers have one caveat for the Australians: don't go messing with Glendhu Bay.
The lessor is the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
Hampshire Holiday Parks will continue to use the land as public camping grounds and holiday parks, and it plans on upgrading the facilities by constructing cabins and refurbishing rooms.
According to information on the decision provided by the Overseas Investment Office, the operator also intends to introduce environmental projects such as rain water tanks - although most locals will tell them it isn't overly damp in their new neighbourhoods - electric vehicle charging stations and energy saving features in cabins. Plus, the operator will ramp up smart technologies "such as customer data analytics and cloud-based software in operating the parks".
It says "consent was granted to this investment as the applicant met the investor test criterion and the investment is likely to result in benefit to New Zealand".
"The main benefits to New Zealand are economic benefits as the investment is likely to result in creation of jobs; in increase in occupancy rates as a result of the additional capacity and improved quality of the facilities; and in greater efficiency in operating the holidays parks and a better experience for the campers as a result of the use of technologies.
"The investment is also likely to advance government's tourism policy and likely to result in a more sustainable and eco-friendly operations of the holiday parks."
The OIA acknowledges the application has attracted public interest and a number of third-party submissions particularly with regard to the camp at Wānaka's Glendhu Bay.
"The decision-makers imposed a condition requiring the applicant to conduct a public meeting about Glendhu Bay Motor Camp to discuss its operation to the campers. The decision-makers also conditioned the applicant not to substantially alter the operations of Glendhu Bay Motor Camp."
Long-term Glendhu Bay camper Peter Martin says he made a submission to the Overseas Investment Office and encouraged other campers to do the same.
His concerns were related to the potential for fee hikes over popular holiday times and the risk of losing the "traditional Kiwi camp" feel that Glendhu Bay delivers - he should know, he has been camping there for 60-odd years.
In 2014, the QLDC signed with campground operators CCR (Council Campgrounds Revitalised) a lease that allowed the group to run the local campgrounds for 25 years.
CCR paid $3.2 million as a lump sum upfront, and agreed to ongoing annual rent of $878,000, subject to a periodic review.
Main image (Nikki McKay): The keys to Glendhu Bay's much-loved campground have been handed over to an overseas campground operator.