More limits put on freedom campers

By Peter de Graaf, Alexandra Newlove

3 comments
These campers behind the Whangarei Aquatic Centre will be out of luck next summer as the council moves to restrict freedom camping. Photo / Mike Dinsdale
These campers behind the Whangarei Aquatic Centre will be out of luck next summer as the council moves to restrict freedom camping. Photo / Mike Dinsdale

Freedom campers have had their final hurrah in Whangarei this summer, with an impending crackdown on where the nomads can set up base.

Meanwhile, in the Far North, the council had allowed more space for freedom campers, after its council deemed its old rules too restrictive.

Whangarei was a free-for-all for freedom campers, but now popular spots, including the reserve behind Whangarei Aquatic Centre, the car park beside Te Matau A Pohe, several spaces at Matapouri Beach and sports parks, would be subject to year-round bans under Whangarei District Council's (WDC) proposed Freedom Camping Bylaw.

Areas at Langs and Ruakaka beaches, as well as McLeod, Wellingtons, Woolleys, Sandy and Moureeses bays would be no-go zones for campers during the peak summer season, while other popular spots would have designated sections where people could stay.

A report to WDC's meeting today, where councillors would approve the draft bylaw for public consultation, said an increasing number of complaints were being received about freedom campers who caused a mess or reduced amenity or access.

Slightly more than 100 complaints were received between December 2008 and December 2015, which excluded those about people staying too long. Under current rules campers could park for up to three nights. WDC policy and bylaws analyst Shireen Munday said the number of complaints was increasing over time.

The Far North District Council (FNDC) has loosened its restrictive freedom camping rules. Last year it designated eight sites between Kawakawa and Awanui as official freedom camping sites. FNDC then proposed 16 possible sites based on access, ground conditions, availability of water and public toilets, and distance from campgrounds. Half were ditched after councillors reviewed the 178 public submissions.

The council-approved sites are at Totara North's old dump site; the Hundertwasser car park, behind the toilets in Kawakawa; Centre Park, Kaitaia; Awanui Reserve; Mangonui Lions Park; Lindvart Park, Kaikohe; Te Corner, Ohaeawai; and Two Ponga Park, Okaihau.

Other freedom camping sites are provided by DoC, the NZ Motor Caravan Association and RSAs.

The Far North previously had only four sites where freedom camping was allowed. The Far North sites were for self-contained camper vans only for a maximum of two days. Camper vans without toilets had to use campgrounds instead.

- Northern Advocate

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