Peak season summer freedom camping will be banned along Tutukaka Coast under Whangārei District Council's new Camping in Public Places Bylaw.
Freedom camping will be banned for almost two months annually at about five of the coast's dozen sites along one of the district's most demand-challenged coastal hotspots.
It will be restricted between December 18 and February 8 at Tutukaka coast's Kowharewa Bay, Wellingtons Bay (main reserve, Whangaumu Reserve), Matapouri (Wehiwehi Rd carpark), Woolleys Bay (western carpark) and Sandy Bay (toilet block carpark/grass area).
The new rules are part of the council's amended 2017 Camping in Public Places Bylaw which was formally adopted at the council's first full meeting of the year yesterday. The updated bylaw comes into effect on October 1, in time for the coming peak summer season camping.
Freedom camping will be allowed at the five summer-restricted sites during the rest of the year, in areas specifically outlined in the new bylaw.
Year-round Tutukaka Coast camping bans have also been brought in for two new freedom camping sites - Sandy Bay's McAuslin Rd and Whangaumu Reserve (west, at 22 Whangaumu St). These two new sites are in addition to already-existing year-round bans in place for Matapōuri's Morrison Rd carpark, Ngunguru School, Tutukaka Marina and Woolleys Bay (eastern carpark).
Tikipunga Sportspark has been introduced as a new freedom camping option for self-contained vehicles while Tutukaka Coast's summer bans are in place. It will be available when the grounds aren't being used for sports from December 18 until Northland/Auckland Anniversary Day.
Growing freedom camping pressures have created increasing conflicts between freedom camping and locals on the Tutukaka Coast and in many parts of the district.
The new 2021 amendment comes after public consultation that brought heated submissions from freedom camping opponents along Tutukaka Coast, Whangārei Heads, Ruakākā coast and other areas. Consultation included a public hearing.
Whangārei has seen a 160 per cent increase in freedom campers into the district in the past five years. Thirteen thousand freedom camping vehicles visited Whangārei in 2019/2020 – up from 5000 in 2017/2018.
This demand has seen the council bring forward reviewing its first-ever Camping In Public Places Bylaw.
Councillor Greg Martin said the amended bylaw rewarded responsible freedom campers and enabled those abusing Whangārei's pristine environment to be dealt with more robustly.
Locals campaigned against freedom camping in Whananaki North's contentious freedom camping area. The bylaw amendments have seen this spot reduced in size with restrictions on camping outside its designated boundaries.
Greg Innes, WDC Deputy Mayor and Whangārei Heads-based councillor, said the council had been through a robust process in addressing views the public had put forward as part of the bylaw updating.
He said Whangārei Heads freedom camping issues at Ocean Beach, Reotahi and Tamaterau had been addressed to his satisfaction in the amended bylaw.
Controversial freedom camping has now been banned at Ocean Beach's overflow carpark under the amended bylaw.
WDC councillors voted 13:1 in favour of the amended Camping in Public Places Bylaw.
Councillor Nic Connop voted against it because he said it unfairly targeted freedom campers with extra rules when the council's Public Places Bylaw could already be used to deal with perceived issues. Permanent vehicle dwellers were impacted by the bylaw updating.
Freedom camping will also now be newly prohibited year round at Abbey Caves (new carpark), Helena Bay, One Tree Point Rd layby, Otamure Bay and Whangārei city's Finlayson St/Reyburn House Lane carpark under the amended Camping in Public Places Bylaw.
Onerahi sportspark will be used as a new self-contained freedom camping spot when the grounds aren't being used for sports, from December 18 until Northland/Auckland Anniversary Day.
Accompanying amendments to the council's Public Places Bylaw state that nobody can use any building, tent, caravan, vehicle or structure on any public place in the district for the purpose of living accommodation – except with the written consent of WDC chief executive Rob Forlong or his delegated representative.