Two dozen visitors in Whangārei have been stung with a $200 fine over 25 days, mainly for freedom camping outside designated areas.
Whangārei District Council enforcement officers began issuing tickets at 22 designated freedom camping sites from December 1 last year for non-compliance with the Camping in Public Places Bylaw.
It included a blitz between December 10 and 20 which was extended to Christmas Day as it was well received by Whangārei residents and campers, WDC responsible camping co-ordinator Susan Halliwell said.
She said 24 infringement notices were issued to mostly overseas visitors between December 1 and Christmas Day, mainly for freedom camping outside a designated area such as in reserves, parks and car parking areas.
More details such as where the campers were ticketed would not be known until next week, Halliwell said.
She said no particular designated freedom camping site stood out as the most problematic.
"All Whangārei's designated freedom camping areas are very busy at the moment,
thankfully with compliant and responsible camping behaviours from the vast majority of campers, or a willingness to be compliant once guided as to what to do.
"The small number of freedom camping sites and spaces available has created huge competition, so we are trying to get the message out to freedom campers to have a Plan B, C and D in place for overnight stays, including a DoC or commercial campground."
Halliwell said self contained freedom campers could park anywhere in Whangārei that wasn't private property or where there wasn't a sign prohibiting camping — provided they used their onboard toilets and waste containment.
She said the sheer number of freedom campers meant some were not using facilities and disposing of waste in the right way, largely through ignorance.
However, she said most campers were respectful, concerned about camping in the right place, disposed of waste in the appropriate way, kept noise to a minimum between 10pm and 7am, walked and drove where permitted, looked after our environment and used toilets for the right purposes.
"We would prefer to focus on the responsible camping behaviours and profile them, as that is what we are trying to encourage and what most campers are doing.
"The issuing of infringement notices remains ongoing and since 20 December has been running in tandem with council's responsible camping ambassador programme in which ambassadors visit the district's nine most popular freedom camping spots to educate campers on our freedom camping rules before enforcement officers arrive on their regular patrol."
Halliwell is also a responsible camping ambassador and said during her patrols at freedom camping sites at Tamaterau, Parua Bay, Mt Manaia, and Ocean Beach, all the campers she met were willing to do the right thing.
"Going forward, our approach is to continue having ambassadors and enforcement officers support campers to the right behaviours. Generally, all that is needed is a friendly word of encouragement, although if firmer action needs to be taken it will be."