Campground a housing option for homeless during Covid-19 lockdown

6:12 pm on 27 March 2020

Gisborne authorities have the option to house the homeless at one of the city's campgrounds during the four-week Covid-19 lockdown.

General vision of homelessness in Auckland central city.

Photo: RNZ / Luke McPake

The keys to the Churchill Park group accommodation facility have been handed to the local civil defence emergency management group for housing the vulnerable.

The facility has eight five-bed units with a communal kitchen and bathrooms.

Gisborne Holdings commercial operations manager Jeremy Raymond said the council-controlled trading organisation would consider providing cleaning staff to service the accommodation at Churchill Park, adjacent to Midway Beach, if it is used for emergency housing during the lockdown.

The facility is otherwise closed, along with the company's Waikanae Beach Top 10 Holiday Park.

Gisborne Holdings chief executive Tracey Johnstone said the company had decided even before the lockdown was announced that the holiday park was not a suitable venue for self-isolation, in consideration of the health and safety of staff and guests.

Raymond said cancellations had been swift following the introduction of the Covid-19 alert system almost a week ago.

Campers still at the park on Monday when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave 48 hours' notice of the lockdown chose to pack up and leave, and staff contacted people with advanced bookings to let them know the park would be closed.

Johnstone said by that stage there were no international travellers staying at the park, which mostly accommodates domestic tourists.

The decision to close the park was made with the understanding that Top 10 holiday parks in Ōhope and Hastings would be available for campers who needed somewhere to self-isolate.

Raymond said one resident staff member and three permanent self-contained campers were all who remained at the Waikanae Beach holiday park.

However, the park's 23 self-contained units were available for essential service workers if necessary.

Johnstone said it was business as usual for the holding company's farming operations.

Although the holiday park was fully booked for Easter, a good summer season meant it was in a position to "weather this [business disruption] pretty well".

Gisborne Holdings' vehicle testing station on the corner of Carnarvon Street and Childers Road was also closed but staff would provide essential vehicle repairs for Hauora Tairāwhiti district health board and Gisborne District Council, Johnstone said.

Travellers have until midnight to return home or find a campsite where they can spend the next four weeks in a self-contained vehicle.

In Wairoa, the district council is directing freedom campers to the Mahia Beach holiday park if they cannot return home.

Gisborne District Council has also closed its freedom and summer camping areas "until further notice".

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