Contractors are issuing fines for illegally camping in the Western Bay as part of a council crackdown on rogue holidaymakers taking over popular reserves and beaches.
The Western Bay District Council has brought in a security firm to patrol camping hotspots such as Waihi Beach and Bowentown's Anzac Bay this summer.
The council's manager of reserves and facilities, Peter Watson, said $25,000 had been allocated to pay First Security to help council staff patrol the Waihi Beach area from late October until the end of Easter weekend.
The contractor is tackling illegal campers using a "graduated" method, Mr Watson said. This included explaining rules, giving warnings and issuing $200 fines. Parking and dog control bylaws were also being enforced.
"This ensures that popular reserves and beach areas can be more widely used by families and day users, instead of being used for camping."
Council records show that 10 infringement notices have already been issued this year, compared with 25 the previous summer.
There are about 50 locations in the Western Bay where freedom camping is allowed. Most sites are restricted to self-contained vehicles fitted with toilets and water tanks, although there is one all-terrain park where tents are permitted. Motorhomes are allowed to park in reserves during daytime, just like other vehicles.
First Security managers declined to comment yesterday, but council documents showed that six of the firm's staff had been trained on freedom camping bylaws.
The Western Bay council issued a total of 35 infringement notices since 2014, whereas the Tauranga City Council has no issues any fines. This is because Tauranga prefers to take an educational approach to dealing with the issue. Stuart Goodman, Tauranga's team leader of bylaws and parking, earlier said this approach had resulted in "very little reoffending".
The Western Bay received 32 or 33 complaints about freedom campers in each of the past two summers, but is yet to receive any leading into this summer. In comparison, Tauranga received 216 complaints in nine months from last spring to autumn and 138 complaints in the same period the year before.
Meanwhile, the NZ Motor Caravan Association is planning to landscape and fence a 0.59-hectare site on Emerton Road, between Waihi Beach and Athenree, for use by its members. This is expected to ease the pressure on Anzac Bay.
Association vice-president Ross Hamilton said it was hoped that work would begin before the end of summer.
"Both the Tauranga and Western Bay councils have provided some great sites," he said. "We tell our members not to abuse them and to have a good time."