Popular Auckland campground could be shut down

One of Auckland’s best-loved camping grounds may have to shut down after a council report found future flooding could result in loss of life.

The campground has to remove all of its cabins and caravans after an Auckland Council report into severe floods in February and April.

The report found the land to be unsafe and said that future floods could result in loss of life.

The nearby Piha Mill camp has closed down because of the floods, leaving people without somewhere to camp near the famous surf beach if the decision to close Piha Domain campground is made.

The Piha community is reeling that the much-loved camp site could be lost.

Fiona Anderson, who has managed the Piha Domain campground for the past 19 years, said the Auckland report means she can’t insure the site from next April.

She said she’s got no choice but to remove all the cabins and caravans – some of which have been used by generations of Aucklanders.

“We have this rich, rich history. People have buried husbands and wives, there’ve been births, deaths marriages and divorces – but it’s over,” she said.

“The health and safety legislation trumps everything else and I’m not prepared to take responsibility for somebody losing their life if the big one comes. Nor am I prepared to pay the salvage costs for 40 caravans floating around in the tide.”

Once she removes the cabins and caravans she’ll have a year left on the lease during which time she’ll assess whether there’s still a salvageable business.

Ms Anderson said it’s not clear whether people will still be able to put up tents after 1 April. And she’s not sure what it will mean for her home, which is also on the property.

“In this place, I’ve raised a family in this house, I’ve fostered about 30 children in this house. We really are the Summer Bay caravan park – it’s Home and Away.”

Peter Gillespie and his family have been coming to their caravans at the campsite there for the past 27 years.

“It’ll be the end of an era. My eldest son got killed in a plane crash down in Queenstown in ’97 and we were told about it by the police while we were at Piha. So it’s quite a poignant, significant place for us.”

He believes the council’s report overstates the risk of floods to the camping ground.

Piha Cafe duty manager Tanya Milton said it was devastating for the Piha community.

“It’s actually really shocking because the businesses around here all really rely on each other and support each other,” she said.

“I’m absolutely devastated for Fiona at the campground. She pretty much is the backbone of the community – she does the ambulance, she does the food at the RSA – she does the campground but she supports everybody around here”.

She said it’ll mean only people who can afford more expensive accommodation will be able to stay the night at Piha.

“I’ve been seeing the dynamic here change over the last few years so drastically with the Air BnBs. And I think the campground was really keeping it real – it kept Piha open for any kind of Aucklander, not just people in the high income bracket.”

Phil Wallis from the Piha Surf school said it’s terrible news and is critical of Auckland Council.

“What they’re doing is they’re knee-jerking, they’re over-reacting. This has a major effect on our community.”

He blamed council roadworks for increasing runoff into the river, and its failure to properly maintain the waterway.

Craig McIlroy’s team was behind the council’s report into the floods.

He said the council can’t be blamed for the campground’s woes.

“This area has been a known flood plane and it is not a function of the road or the maintenance of the stream, it’s a function of the natural topography.

“It’s very steep land and as a consequence when you get a heavy rainfall event the water levels do rise very quickly. It’s just a function of nature.”

The council’s report is being independently reviewed, and the results may have implications for the campground.