Freedom campers travelling in Northland have been directed to two central Whangārei carparks where they must stay during the lockdown period.
The carpark at the Whangārei Aquatic Centre was opened for campers yesterday with nine campers pulling in. At the Pohe Island site, of Riverside drive, there were 13 campers.
The freedom campers had been spotted by police as they carried out checks of campgrounds and freedom camping spots in Northland since the Covid 19 lockdown had begun and had been directed to relocate to the carparks.
Originally Tikipunga Sports Grounds were being used but six campervans there had been redirected after locals expressed their displeasure.
Whangārei District Council's general manager community Sandra Boardman said in collaboration with police and the Northland District Health Board all people freedom camping or living in vehicles at Northland freedom camping sites were to move on the instruction of police to the designated carparks.
"We are making the sites as safe as possible for the campers," Boardman said.
Each campervan would be given the use of a portaloo, the sites would be guarded and movement out would be with arrangement through Armourguard.
Those at Pohe Island, where there was capacity for 43, would have access to showers at the Mad Hatters Clubrooms and those at the aquatic centre, where there was space for 20, would use the shower facilities there. Pohe Island also had water and rubbish collection available.
"This move will ensure the welfare of all campers and provide them with closer access to medical help should they require it. It applies to all freedom campers and vehicle dwellers regardless of self containment certification," Boardman said.
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Yesterday there were four campers parked at Finlayson St and 11 at Cobham Oval but those had been shut and were not accepting anymore.
Boardman reminded locals to be kind to the overseas visitors.
"They are guests in our country and have been caught up in this difficult situation through no fault of their own."
She said council and other community groups such as Open Arms were working hard to move any homeless people, or those living out of their cars, into temporary accommodation.
"Once situated at the sites, campers are expected to remain there unless sourcing necessary supplies, seeking medical help or visiting the Kioreroa Rd dump station."
Campers were warned to remain the required distance of 2m from other campers at all times, except those they shared a vehicle with.
"Comply with all instructions from police or Armourguard officers regarding your camping situation and conditions. The police are responsible for enforcing the self-isolation requirements and are assigning significant resources to identifying any persons that are not following these requirements to ensure they do comply," Boardman said.
One camper, who was part of a group moved from Rarawa Beach in the Far North to the Tikipunga site, said they were campers all in self contained vans trying to follow lockdown rules.
"We actually have everything we need and could stay here the 4 weeks even for free. But all the locals don't want us here, they are calling the police even though we don't do anything wrong. We kind of feel like being the attraction of a zoo, cause all the locals come and look at us and even take photos," he said.
He has since been moved to a central city carpark site.
One of the campers at Pohe Island, who did not want to be named, said he came to Whangārei from Auckland for his daughter's birthday before the lockdown and now had no way of getting back.
He said he had a house in Auckland he could self isolate too, but he could not travel there under the lockdown rules, so had to stay here.
* If you are a New Zealand citizen or resident on a low income or benefit, you can contact Work and Income to see if you're eligible for this support. If you do not ordinarily reside in New Zealand, please contact your embassy or consulate for further assistance.
* To register for temporary accommodation, phone 0508 754 163 or go to https://temporaryaccommodation.mbie.govt.nz/covid-19/