Sleeping overnight in your car in Whangarei will be outlawed if a new bylaw set to be in place by Labour Weekend is approved.
The free-for-all freedom that campers currently enjoy in the district looks set to end, with the majority of submitters on the Whangarei District Council's proposed Freedom Camping Bylaw backing a crackdown on the nomadic over-nighters, who are accused of polluting the areas in which they stay.
Freedom camping will be restricted to self-contained vehicles with toilets and wastewater storage, and further rules say where and when these vehicles can park for the night.
Under current rules, campers - self-contained or otherwise - could park for up to three nights anywhere in the district.
People sleeping in their cars on council-controlled land will face fines of $200 under the proposed bylaw, but the council said it would exercise discretion if people were using their cars for emergency accommodation.
Seasoned freedom camper Kiwi Philippa Roud said the Whangarei bylaw echoed what was happening all over the country. She had ended up buying a cassette toilet for her van and becoming "self-contained certified", as travelling the country was otherwise becoming "harder and harder".
"I'm not for [the bylaw] at all," she said.
"I did the certification out of necessity. It's making New Zealand a less and less accessible place for lower income people to explore and enjoy.
"My other concern is the safety aspect of people forced to move on when they're too tired to drive."
The Freedom Camping Act - the guiding legislation for the bylaw - allows for people who are resting to avoid driver fatigue, though this does not extend to overnight stays.
Mia, an American freedom camper who did not want her surname used, was parked at Reyburn House Lane yesterday in her self-contained van and said she had mixed feelings about the new rules.
"I'm conflicted - freedom camping in a wonderful thing but the people doing it need to be responsible."
Freedom campers Peter and Margaret, who also did not want their surnames published, were staying in the carpark by Te Matau a Pohe. They too were in a self-contained unit but said they had sympathy for young tourists who could not afford to hire a self-contained van.
Josh Knox was in the process of converting his van into sleeping quarters and said he planned to include a toilet, though he disagreed with the bylaw.
"You get the young crews that travel round, they should be trusted to do the right thing," he said.
The council this week heard submissions on the proposed bylaw - with 23 of the 42 submissions supporting it, 12 against, and seven not saying.
Most of those opposing the new rules thought they were not strict enough.
Marilyn Cox, of Bream Bay Coastal Care Trust, was one of 14 people who raised concerns about the mess left behind by freedom campers.
Ms Cox said trust volunteers had last month found "quantities of used toilet" left behind by campers at both Ruakaka Beach and Mair Rd.
Even self-contained camper vans would be banned from 23 "sensitive sites" listed in the bylaw - including sportsparks, one car park at Matapouri beach, Tutukaka Marina Reserve and Elliot Rd reserve behind Whangarei Aquatic Centre.
Other sites would be subject to summer bans - including Langs Beach's Cove Rd access, Ruakaka Beach Reserve, Whangaumu Reserve (Wellington's Bay) and the Sandy Bay road reserve.
Self-contained campers could still park up at some sites at Matapouri, Sandy Bay, Oceans Beach and Reyburn House Lane car park - among others - provided they were in one of the spaces the council planned to designate.
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