Notice to freedom campers in Whangārei — play by the rules or receive a $200 fine for spoiling the stay for others.
The Whangārei District Council started a 10-day ticketing blitz at 22 designated freedom camping areas from yesterday until December 20 before volunteer ambassadors are rolled out to enforce the rules.
That rule is the Camping in Public Places Bylaw which came into effect in October 2017.
Under the bylaw, all campers were prohibited at 38 locations, while self-contained campers were allowed at four places. Both self-contained and non self-contained were allowed at 12 sites and all types of camping were allowed at six.
Freedom camping has divided public opinion and created problems for territorial authorities and their ratepayers over the years.
Freedom campers in Whangārei supported the ticketing blitz, saying it would ensure the clean and green environment was preserved as well as deter irresponsible travellers from breaking the bylaw.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said the ticketing blitz was aimed at sending a clear message to freedom campers before the peak holiday season began.
"We want campers to understand that staying at our place for free is a privilege and that we expect our non-paying guests to play by the house rules.
"Having got that message, we then want them to spread the message through social media and other internet channels that Whangārei expects compliance with its freedom camping regulations," she said.
Mai said campers staying overnight in the right place, keeping noise to a minimum, using toilets appropriately and disposing off waste thoughtfully shouldn't have anything to worry about.
However, those not following the rules would receive a $200 fine from a WDC enforcement officer employed by Armourguard.
Funding for enforcing the bylaw would come from a $300,000 Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment grant for infrastructure investments across a range of sites and monitoring and enforcement initiatives.
Funding of about $8 million was approved in August for various projects and initiatives to help councils throughout New Zealand manage freedom camping in their regions during the peak summer season.
Mai said the irresponsible actions of some freedom campers resulted in a spoilt summer for Whangārei residents, and a lack of parking spaces at their favourite summer spots.
Armourguard would continue to visit Whangārei's designated freedom camping sites daily after December 20 but WDC hoped word would have spread on the freedom camper social media networks that the district expected them to play by the rules.
After that date, responsible camping ambassadors would also start greeting and educating freedom campers at Whangārei's 10 most popular freedom camping sites and to record data on the number of campers, similar to the Summer Safe Carpark programme.
German tourists Matthias Sachse and partner Simone Kruger said any freedom campers who didn't play by the rules should be taken to task.
"Every community has a right to keep their environment safe and clean. I try to stick to the rules but there are people that don't and a fine may make them act responsibly," Sachse said.
Belgian friends Greg Bodeux and Zoltan Borbath, who arrived at Whangārei Falls yesterday to start their 10-day Northland holiday, said people must follow the rules of towns and cities they visit.
"It's important the local council takes care of its environment if it is to continue attracting tourists to Whangārei. This place is clean unlike some cities where you see pollution and the like and that's not a good look," Bodeux said.
The ticketing blitz would take place at designated spots on Reyburn House Lane carpark, Beach Rd in Onerahi, Ruakaka Beach, Whangārei Falls, A H Reed Memorial Park, Bascule carpark on Port Rd, Kowharewa Bay, Manaia Walkway carpark, Marsden Bay, Wehiwehi Rd carpark in Matapouri, Ngunguru library, Ocean Beach carpark, One Tree Point boatramp carpark, Reotahi, i-Site on Tarewa Rd, and Wellingtons Bay.
The blitz would also cover Parua Bay, Sandy Bay, Tamaterau, Waipu Caves, Whananaki North, Woolleys Bay.