Editorial: Freedom campers welcome tourists

By Mark Story -
BRING IT ON: Freedom campers bring a dividend to the region, writes Mark Story. PHOTO FILE
BRING IT ON: Freedom campers bring a dividend to the region, writes Mark Story. PHOTO FILE

A hike in the freedom camping season is upon us - and so too the many perceptions that plague this travelling community.

The thrifty transients seem destined to be labelled free-loading, littering loiterers, pikies, gypsies and generally anything short of working-class.

A quick stroll along Marine Parade south collapses these theories.

So too the myth that the practice precludes paying visitors. Not true. Witness this last Labour Weekend where the twin cities boasted a blanket "no vacancy" - and that's despite inclement weather.

One could suggest Wicked Campers' recent slew of offensive slogans hasn't helped. Yet the stereotype remains.

Local Government Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has commissioned a joint working group to improve the effectiveness and reliability of the local bylaws system, specifically looking at freedom camping.

The working group's findings were expected to be released at the end of this month. Let's hope any amendments aren't prohibitive, and don't marginalise freedom campers further.

Last week this paper canvassed a few said campers in Napier - all praised the local facilities. This is crucial, given it's highly likely that the frequency of littering and fouling has everything to do with the utilities available.

As a newbie to Napier, I was unprepared for the spring influx of visitors. It struck me that all Napier citizens are, albeit unwittingly, hosts.

So, we'd do well to acknowledge that 44,000 international visitors indulged in freedom camping in New Zealand last year.

If we don't shame them out of town first, there's a dividend to be had.

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