This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on September 10, 2019.
When people park up in a caravan by the river and use toilets supplied by the council, it's not freedom camping - it's freedom living, a Whanganui East resident says.
Whanganui District Council has one of the most permissive policies on freedom camping around, and the people who use it say it's great.
But it annoys some residents and affects the business of holiday parks.
The council was gathering information about what was happening and considering regulating it with a bylaw, compliance operations manager Warrick Zander said.
Some days there can be 24 motorhomes, self-contained campers and caravans lined up near the former Whanganui Multisport Club building on the Whanganui East riverside.
Seeing them there annoys a resident, who did not want to be named, who walks the bridges daily. She doesn't mind the short-stay visitors because they are the sort of tourists the policy was designed to attract, but she sees people parked up there for weeks at a time.
"I'm paying rates for rubbish to be removed and mowing the berm," she said.
"They're doing nothing, putting bags of household rubbish in rubbish bins. It's these things that upset people."
She's even seen people washing their cars there, using water from the dump station.
All the local holiday parks were irate about the policy, Whanganui River Top Ten Holiday Park owner Jeannie Kay said.
Since the council designated six areas where self-contained motorhomes could stay overnight, there had been more and more people using them.
The holiday park provides the same kind of riverside location, with more facilities. Its campervan business has reduced and it has had to drop one staff member.
Kay said the holiday parks should have been consulted about the council policy.
"We would hope that council would take care of its local businesses and support us rather than setting up their own competition for us."
The long stayers weren't tourists, she said.
"They're not from overseas. They are people who are looking for somewhere free to live for a few days."
At the Whanganui East freedom camping site was Shirley Te Wiata, from the South Island, in her small motorhome. She's retired and was travelling the region to visit whānau and attend to land interests.
In Whanganui she'll be visiting the Māori Land Court, and will stay two nights. She has a cousin here, but prefers to park up by the river because of the view and all the friendly passersby.
Over at Springvale Park there were about 10 overnight stayers in a range of vehicles. Two men, who did not want to be named, were chatting together.
One, in a housebus, has been free camping for six months and picking up part-time work. He was heading to the library that afternoon to apply for jobs in Taranaki.
He had been in Whanganui about two months and said having clean toilets at the park and showers and hot pools at the Splash Centre was a bonus.
His friend, on a pension and in a housetruck, had also been in Whanganui for about two months, alternating between Springvale Park and the Whanganui East riverside. He had lived on the road for 30 years, initially as part of a gypsy fair.
He has a son in Whanganui, but can't park near his house. He wants to get a trailer made for his vehicle while he is here.
"It's taking longer than anticipated getting all the gear together and getting someone to do it at the right price," he said.
The council has designated six places where self-contained vehicles can park up for the night, and three places near toilets for people driving vehicles without toilets. There is no limit on how long they can stay.
This summer, the council will have a freedom camping ambassador to collect information and educate the campers. The information will inform any bylaw the council might make.
The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment website says freedom campers are a small but growing percentage of overseas visitors. Germans and Australians are the most likely users.
They spend less per day than other travellers, but stay longer, visit more regions and spend more per visit.