By STAFF REPORTERS

Hundreds of campers had a soggy start to New Year's festivities from Central Otago to Southland as continuous heavy rain drenched the region.

Kitchens and lounges became venues for makeshift parties and gatherings as campers favoured a crowded dry spot over time-out in a damp tent.

One Invercargill couple decided enough was enough and made a 1am dash from Queenstown to Cromwell.

Courtney Peters and Glenn Shaw came back from a dinner to the Frankton Motor Camp to find their tent sodden and the rain still falling.

"Water was running down from the road and into the tent," he said.

"My parents have got a place in Cromwell so we decided to go to Cromwell."

But the pair were back in Frankton yesterday morning no worse for wear and looking forward to the New Year celebrations.

They weren't the only ones choosing Cromwell over rainier alternatives.

AdvertisementAdvertisementCromwell Top 10 Holiday Park owner Kay Searle said only one or two families had left because of the bad weather, but a number had arrived from other areas.

Campers from Glenorchy, Wanaka and Tarras had arrived within the past 24 hours because it was too wet where they had been, she said.

Glendhu Motor Camp manager Chris Illingworth said a lot of camping gear was sodden and by Thursday evening campers were walking ankle deep in mud and water.

"The whole camp was like a lake."

Wanaka Lakeview Motor Park reported campers taking shelter with friends or in the camping ground buildings.

Only a handful cut their stay short and checked out yesterday morning.

Arthurs Point Holiday Park owner Steve Hill said some tents had collapsed in the rain causing people to go elsewhere to stay dry.

"The kitchen was absolutely chocka."

Creeksyde Top 10 Holiday Park's Alison Fox said most people were making the most of the rain, taking the chance to mingle in the camp kitchen.

Camping grounds in Ettrick and Cairnmuir said some families with young children had opted to pack up and go home because of the rain.

Cairnmuir Camping Ground owner Peter Hoskin said the camping ground was "chocka" but it wouldn't take much more rain for a mass exodus of people, he said.

Alexandra Tourist Park owner Elsie Lyon said it appeared most people were sticking around despite the rain. The sun offered some welcome respite in Central Otago yesterday afternoon, although there were no promises it would stay that way.

Tents at the Invercargill Caravan Park were moved indoors to the pavilions used during A&P shows as a cattle shed.

Manager Craig Sadlier said Invercargill was one of the only camping grounds in the country able to offer undercover tent sites. There was room for about 60 tents, he said.

In Tuatapere campers at the domain were shifted by civil defence yesterday morning as a precaution against the rising Waiau River.

Riverton Caravan park and Holiday Homes owner Alan Stenton said a lot of campers had left, concerned about rising river levels and the safety of property and stock at home.

The camp was extremely wet underfoot and one of the roads had become very muddy.

"There's a few people got sick of it and buggered off," he said.

However, those who chose to stay were making the best of it.

Gore Motor Camp manager Margaret Rae said even caravans would be difficult to put on grass sites at the moment.

"We've got water on the camp where we've never had it before," she said.

Fortunately there were some gravel sites for caravans. Tenters had been offered cabins instead.