Proposed bans at some popular Tauranga camping sites have shocked regular visitors to the area.
The council is seeking feedback on a raft of proposed changes to its 2019 Freedom Camping Bylaw, which includes increasing or reducing the number of campers at some sites and banning camping at several others, including Sulphur Point.
At Sulphur Point yesterday, Thames freedom camper Neil was stunned, saying he and his wife had been camping in their motorhome at Sulphur Point for the past six to seven years and just loved visiting Tauranga.
Neil, who only wanted his first name used, said the proposed changes don't make sense because freedom campers like him contribute to the local economy by buying groceries, petrol, etc.
"We also always ensure we abide by the rules," Neil said.
"We come here three to four times a year and chose this site especially because it's a fantastic location and we just love watching all the cruise ships' comings and goings."
Welcome Bay resident Lydia Haydon, picnicking at Sulphur Point yesterday, said: "I always see freedom campers parking up here and it's not like they're messy or damage things. If there have been complaints, I don't think it would be fair to penalise the good ones."
German couple Uwe and Heike Gonschior from Rugen Island in the Baltic Sea were camping in their motorhome at Kulim Park yesterday. The couple were spending six months touring the country for the first time, experiencing their first Kiwi summer, Uwe said.
They had already clocked up 6000km in a motorhome they bought when they arrived.
Uwe said he and his wife would not like to see the freedom camping rules changed.
"I think for us, and other European travellers, having free campsites like this is perfect because it's very expensive travelling around your country. Not having to pay camp fees means it frees up money to spend at restaurants, gift shops, and pay for other activities."
However, Pāpāmoa retiree Glenys Kerr, who is a member of the NZ Motor Home Association, said limiting the number of campsites or reducing the number of campers made sense.
"I have seen some people in small vans which are not self-contained vehicles try to squeeze into some of these sites, so tighter rulers are needed," she said.
According to the latest figures from Tauranga City Council, 971 infringements worth more than $140,000 were issued to freedom campers in the last financial year.
A council spokesperson said the council was also proposing some extra rules and urged residents to have their say by making a written submission by 5pm on February 22.
When asked for comment yesterday, a council spokeswoman said she was unable to provide a response before the paper went to print last night, and referred the Bay of Plenty Times to its website.
No one from the NZ Motor Home Association was available to comment at the time the newspaper went to print.
The current fine for breaching the Freedom Camping Bylaw was $200.
Proposed changes include:
Increasing the number of freedom camping sites at Mount Greens carpark (five to 10), Cambridge Park (two to six), Carlton St Reserve (six to eight) and Marine Park 1 (eight all year round), establishing Marine Park 2 as a new freedom camping area, no longer allowing freedom camping in Macville Park, Omanu Surf Club carpark, Sulphur Point, Ocean Downs Reserve, Cliff Rd carpark and Shadelands Lane, reducing the number of freedom camping sites at Kulim Park from five to two.
Other changes include giving the council the ability to make permanent changes to designated freedom camping sites through a publicly notified resolution, and the ability for council to temporarily allow, modify or prohibit freedom camping in an area for things like an event or park maintenance.
Full details of the proposed changes and why the council wants to make them are available on the council's website.