Travel Troubles

Blenheim campground wants to double in size in response to freedom campers, growing wine industry

Blenheim campground wants to double in size in response to freedom campers, growing wine industry

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James Davidson, left, has taken over the Blenheim Backpackers and Motor Camp from father Barry Davidson.

An accommodation provider wants to double in size to take advantage of the growing number of freedom campers and wine industry workers in Marlborough.

The Blenheim Backpackers and Motor Camp, on Budge St, hopes to expand to include a 1-hectare section at the rear of the property, backing on to the Opawa River.

This would add another 38 campsites, increasing capacity to 225 people, the maximum number allowed with its existing bathroom and kitchen facilities.

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Blenheim Backpackers and Motor Camp on Budge St.

New owner James Davidson, who is taking over from his father Barry, said the opportunity to buy the land came up about a month ago.

He had applied for a resource consent for the extension.

He said the decision to expand was partly motivated by the desire to do something about the freedom camping situation in Marlborough, which he said was a problem.

“We hope to attract a lot more people to come and stay and hopefully lower the amount of rubbish that’s being left behind by freedom campers,” he said.

Davidson said one of the reasons freedom camping was popular in Marlborough was because there was a lack of accommodation options.

He said he was only aware of three licensed motor camps in the Blenheim area, so by expanding and providing more campsites he hoped to discourage people from freedom camping.

“I want to provide a better place for them, at a competitive rate,” he said.

The existing site could accommodate around 100 people, which was not enough to meet summer demand and Davidson said they had turned people away.

Most people wanting accommodation at the site were overseas vineyard workers, which made Davidson confident there would be enough demand to fill the new campsites.

A labour survey commissioned by Wine Marlborough found the wine industry would need an extra 1979 vineyard workers by the 2019/2020 season.

Blenheim Backpackers and Motor Camps was not used by Recognised Seasonal Employers to house their workers, but there was still a need for additional casuals.

The labour survey, which was based on interviews with people from wine companies and labour contractors, found that by 2019/2020 the industry would need another 374 winter casuals, 442 summer casuals and 68 harvest casuals.

Planned beds to accommodate the required workers over the next five years fell short of demand and the survey suggested all contractors with growth aspirations should look at providing additional accommodation.

“It’ll help with the problems we’re having at the moment, everybody needs workers for the vineyards and they all need somewhere to stay,” Davidson said.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said it was good to see people responding to the industry’s needs.

There would be opportunities for accommodation providers to invest in the region, however he cautioned against expanding too quickly as the shortage of beds was not large.

“It has to be done at the right time rather than flooding the market with a huge number of beds,” he said.

It was understood some nearby residents in Collett Place had expressed concerns about the project, but Davidson said that was because they thought traffic would enter the site through Collett Place.

Instead, all traffic would go through the Budge St entrance and Davidson said a fence would be erected between the houses and the campsite.

He encouraged anyone with concerns about the new site, which he said would be completed within a month, to get in touch.

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