Whangārei should be banning all freedom camping vehicles that aren't self-contained, a local residents' group leader says.
Jan Boyes', Whangārei Heads Citizens Association chairwoman's comments come after new Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said he wanted these vehicles banned from New Zealand.
Nash would not comment specifically on Whangārei District Council (WDC)'s current Camping in Public Places Bylaw review
But he has strongly signalled his intentions around freedom camping vehicles without working onboard toilets.
"I have asked my tourism officials to explore what's possible about tighter regulations for camping vehicles that are not equipped to deal with their own waste," Nash said.
"I certainly want tighter controls on this industry. I want to know what's possible and how we can ensure our long-suffering ratepayers and residents in the most idyllic parts of the country aren't left cleaning up human waste," he said.
Four weeks' public consultation on the bylaw review close on Friday at 2pm. At edition time WDC had received 93 bylaw review submissions. The council will also be holding a December 8 hearing for those who want to talk to their submission.
There has been a huge 160 per cent increase in freedom campers into the district in the last five years. Thirteen thousand freedom camping vehicles visited Whangārei last summer – up from 5000 in 2017/2018.
Boyes said WDC should be moving towards banning non self-contained freedom campers.
"The time has long gone for these to be part of our Whangārei tourism mix. A ban on non self-contained vehicles should gradually be brought in," Boyes said.
Whangārei's huge freedom camping increase has forced an early first-time bylaw review to deal with what WDC councillors have been told will be a polarising issue about which hard decisions will need to be made.
"We don't want any liberalisation anywhere of what we already have now. In fact lots of places need further restrictions," Boyes said of her association's review submission, based on surveying 150 Whangārei Heads locals.
The proposed new bylaw outlines management for each of more than 60 Whangārei freedom camping spots, mostly along the district's coastline from its roughly Langs Beach southern boundary to Bland Bay in the north.
"We are seeing a high level of interest in freedom camping matters," Vita Strohush, WDC strategic planner (bylaws) said.
Strohush has previously said the bylaw is operated under New Zealand's Freedom Camping Act. This considers only three categories is assessing the camping's impacts – health and safety, access and environmental impact.
Bruce Barron, Whananaki Beach Association president, said councils used the act to hide behind when saying they weren't allowed to oppose freedom camping on the basis of running a business.
His review submission would be based around freedom camping's impact on four local campgrounds which missed out on business as a result.
His group opposed wholesale freedom camping on the roughly tennis court-sized Whananaki North beach reserve.
"I don't think part of our beautiful reserve should be taken up by campervans who spend very little," Barron said.
James Imlach, New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) manager for property and policy, said his group was also putting in a bylaw review submission.
WDC was leading New Zealand with its approach to freedom camping management.
Among the reasons for this was that it was being true to the intent of the act, in contrast to some councils which included representation about business impacts in their bylaw decision making.
Imlach said freedom camping was part of New Zealand's culture.
Thousands of freedom campers travelled around the country without creating problems.
The assocation accepted a small minority did however create problems, but this wasn't the case for all.
Freedom camping overload has become a problem along the Tutukaka Coast. WDC is proposing banning camping from its most under pressure sites for about two months over the peak season,
"We would much rather see seasonal prohibition than prohibiting camping year round," Imlach said.
Big changes to Ruakaka's freedom camping management are proposed under the bylaw review too.
Eric Woodward, Ruakaka Residents and Ratepayers Association member, said he would be making a submission on the bylaw review.
Illegal freedom camping in the Ruakaka Beach backdunes about 700m north of the Niwa Northland marine research centre had recently become a problem that needed addressing.