The Wairoa District Council is bracing for another busy summer season, with international travel restrictions likely to increase freedom camper numbers in the coming weeks.
Each summer the Mahia population, usually sitting at around 1100, at least triples. It is not being unheard of for 17,000 people to descend around New Year's Eve.
The wave of visitors puts pressure on infrastructure such as waste disposal, and some locals complained at the beginning of 2020 that enough was enough.
Wairoa mayor Craig Little said the council was doing its best to tackle the issue, especially as more people were "heading off the beaten track" now.
Figures from September this year from the Wairoa i-Site showed visitors increased more than 30 per cent with 728 people registering their visit compared with 551 in September 2019.
Visitor spending in the district was also up 3.2 per cent on last year, hinting at another busy summer ahead.
Little said residents had to accept it was one of the drawbacks of living in "God's own country" and "a small sacrifice".
The biggest issue was rubbish disposal and Little said he would be interested to see if there was a change given most of this year's visitors would be from within New Zealand.
"The biggest issue is rubbish.
"I live on a state highway and the amount of litter that gets chucked out [is shocking] – and it's Kiwis doing it.
"Let's hope they are a little more responsible."
He said it wasn't right for people to just dump their rubbish and it was "just plain selfish".
One of the other issues for the area was freedom campers in non-self-contained vehicles being in the wrong places, he said.
Camping in self-contained vehicles - those with a built-in kitchen, bathroom, freshwater and waste-water holding tanks and a certified sticker - is permitted on any area owned by the local authority within the district, unless it is prohibited.
Those travelling in modified vehicles without these facilities, or those pitching a tent are limited to restricted areas like the Clyde Court in Wairoa and Oraka on the Mahia Peninsula.
Interim chief executive Kitea Tipuna said Covid-19 had significantly changed tourism worldwide and they had seen an increase in domestic visitors flocking to the area.
"The Wairoa district is a beautiful area and is attracting more and more visitors."
Tipuna said council was building systems to respond to the "extreme increase of pressure" on the district's infrastructure.
"Council has been successful in receiving significant investment through Central Government's tourism and responsible camping initiatives and will continue to apply for this external funding, which does not impact the ratepayer, but assists in developing tourism infrastructure."
More than $500,000 - consisting of $450,300 from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund and another $50,000 set aside by council - will help upgrade toilet and rubbish bins across the district.
Additionally, the district was also granted $250,000 through the Responsible Camping Fund for the Mahia Ambassador programme, and additional servicing of toilet, waste tanks and rubbish facilities and signs.
The council will increase litter bin servicing in Mahia over the peak holiday period.
Mahia will also be subject to a 24-hour liquor ban from December 20 to January 20; a 24-hour liquor ban is in place for Wairoa year-round.
More information about freedom camping and restrictions over the summer can be found at wairoadc.govt.nz