Mob members overrun Tarawera campground: 'It's a bloody shambles'

5:15 pm on 10 January 2020

A popular Kawerau campground has been closed after campers were intimidated and threatened by Mob members on dirt bikes.

The Department of Conservation has closed its popular Lake Tarawera Outlet campsite due to safety concerns.

The Department of Conservation has closed its popular Lake Tarawera Outlet campsite due to safety concerns. Photo: LDR / Supplied

The Department of Conservation managed Lake Tarawera Outlet campsite has been closed until further notice following claims it had been taken over, and campers forced out, by Mongrel Mob members.

Department of Conservation operations director Central North Island Damian Coutts said DoC has been made aware of the allegations and are supporting police in their enquiries and are also doing their own investigations given the seriousness of the incidents described.

"Because of the nature of the allegations, the campground has been closed," said Mr Coutts.

"It is inappropriate for us to comment further while enquiries continue."

A Kawerau man, who wanted to stay anonymous due to fears for his family's safety, said his teenage son stayed at the campground over New Year's and was terrified after a "riot" broke out.

The man said police attended the scene but nobody was charged in relation to the incident.

"Red shirt wearing people were driving around in DoC vehicles on site, and I've been told by other people camping there that they have also been harassed and intimidated by Mongrel Mob there. The Mob is basically running the place and apparently there is more methamphetamine up there than anything else.

"It's a bloody shambles for a DoC campground."

The man said his son and those he was camping with wanted to leave the campsite after the riot but were unable to due to the gate being locked.

"It's a very bad situation, I had contacted DoC about it, and they said they were completely unaware of the issues and obviously their own investigations have now led to them shutting the camp," he said.

The man said it was unfortunate the Mob had infiltrated the campground as it was a big drawcard for visitors to the Kawerau region and it was a bad look for the town.

It is understood the manager of the campsite has now been removed.

"This should never have come to be, it should be a nice family campground where people can go and feel safe," the man said.

"There are so many things that need to be done, that aren't being done. The department need to sort it out and change things they do in the future. What is going on and how can the Mongrel Mob be running a campground?"

Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell said he had heard conflicting reports on what had happened at the camp and was only focused on how the Kawerau District Council can support DoC.

"We are going to get together next week to see how we can support DoC in getting a decent manager up there, because the last thing we would want is for it to be closed to the public completely," he said.

"It's been our playground for the last 65 years. I have heard all the stories, and that's what they are, stories. There are always two sides to each story and some of them are conflicting. Some have said there were gangs and others have said there weren't."

Mr Campbell said the good reputation of the DoC rangers should not be ruined over "an unfortunate incident at New Year's".

The campground is not in the Kawerau District, but the only access route is through Kawerau.

The campground and the Tarawera waterfall draw large numbers of visitors to the town each year, making it a significant tourist attraction.

Last year, the Kawerau i-SITE recorded 40,000 visitors at the campsite.

"We don't want anyone to be kicked out of there, there has to be respect form the public and if they don't respect it, they will lose it, simple as," said Mr Campbell.

"This is not just for Kawerau, this is for all of us."

Mr Campbell said DoC is the correct organisation to be running the camp but may need some assistance in hiring the right staff.

Kawerau senior sergeant Yvonne Parker said it was not her place to comment on the issue and that questions should be directed to DoC.

The campground is notoriously hard to police, as it has no cellphone coverage and by the time police make it out there, a half hour drive on dirt roads, the perpetrators have already left.

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