No Camping at Lake Selfe in the Canterbury High Country

No Camping at Lake Selfe I must admit to being shocked and angry when I first discovered the Selwyn District…

No Camping at Lake Selfe

Selwyn District Council “No Camping” sign at Lake Selfe in the Canterbury High Country. Photograph by T. Austin.

I must admit to being shocked and angry when I first discovered the Selwyn District Council had erected a “No Camping” sign at Lake Selfe. This is a Lake I have camped and fished at for decades. Indeed Kiwis have been camping and fishing at Lake Selfe, and others in the Canterbury high country, for over 100 years. So why the decision now to take away the right to camp in New Zealand’s great outdoors? A decision made all the more galling when you consider the local landowner is a wealthy foreigner who has purchased two high country stations and can camp close to the lake if he so chooses. As Tony Orman has so often written about this is surely a case of Kiwis being shut out of their own outdoors. There is now no camping at Lake Selfe.

However, on reflection, I am not so sure. I have traveled around this beautiful country of ours camping and fishing a great deal in the past few years and have frequently had the misfortune to stumble upon rubbish and human waste left by people who can only be described as pigs.

There are no public toilets at Lake Selfe, and apparently, there has been a worsening problem of freedom campers leaving an unsightly mess there. This places the Selwyn District Council in an awkward position. Toilets in out of the way places are expensive to service and maintain. Besides, if the council were to build a public toilet at Lake Selfe it would serve to encourage even more people to camp there. Sad to say many of these “campers” would be too lazy or stupid to use a toilet anyway.

Not that long ago I passed through Murchison and decided to stop at a rest area just a kilometer or so north of town to make a cup of coffee. Whilst waiting for my gas cooker to boil the water I strolled a few meters down a track to take some photographs of the Buller River. The track to the river was largely enclosed by a bush canopy. To my horror, almost the entire area was festooned with toilet paper. Needless to say, I quickly retreated out of there. Why people would do this, especially when there are two public toilets just a kilometer or so down the road in Murchison, is beyond me. There were “No Camping” signs posted at that picnic area and I can see why.

The Trust Power Freedom Camping Area at the Harper River end of Lake Coleridge is just 6 km’s from Lake Selfe. The Lake Coleridge camping ground has running water and a composting toilet. But I wouldn’t advise drinking the water without boiling it first. At least it’s not far to drive back to Lake Selfe for an early morning fish.

I have fond memories of pitching a tent and camping beside Lake Selfe. We would wake early in the morning to be ready for the 5.00am start on Opening Day. Some years it would be blowing. Some years it would even be snowing. The fishing was always very good. I note that nowadays many anglers travel to these lakes for day trips only. How things have changed – not always for the better.

I understand the logic behind the Selwyn District Council erecting the “No Camping” signs, but I don’t agree with there being no camping at Lake Selfe. Why are fully self-contained campervans being banned?


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