Whanganui will continue to welcome freedom campers despite concerns raised by 32 district mayors.

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall, himself a keen freedom camper, says the district has no reason at the moment to share the concerns raised by other councils.

He and 32 other mayors met with Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis last week to discuss issues their districts had with freedom camping (camping in a vehicle or tent in an areas not designated for camping).

Unlike many of his peers, Mr McDouall wants to encourage freedom camping in Whanganui for its economic benefit and tourism boost.


"Show me there's a problem because at the moment (since) my appearance on TV there's been overwhelming support for Whanganui's position around freedom camping," he told council's strategy and finance committee the day before meeting Mr Davis.

The committee decided that instead of a bylaw - which it decided last year was not needed - the activity will be monitored through observation by council staff, recording complaints or calls to council and Geozone data which is collected by an app used by many tourists.

Data would be reported back every six months.

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall. Photo / File
Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall. Photo / File

Other districts have had problems with facilities and parks being overrun by freedom campers and councillor Rob Vinsen warned that Whanganui was not immune.

"While I agree that we haven't got a problem at the moment I think we would be naive if we don't take notice of what other councils around New Zealand experience," he said.

Mr Vinsen pointed to New Plymouth District Council which had to ban freedom camping from one spot soon after passing a permissive freedom camping bylaw.

"Because 12 months ago they had a laissez-faire attitude," Mr Vinsen said.

"I believe it's only a matter of time before we have to ban free camping (and) please don't use this term freedom camping - it's free camping.


"Once that starts catching on, and our mayor is doing his best to encourage it, then I think we will have to start assessing it."

But Mr McDouall, who occasionally camps out in the back of his station wagon, said Whanganui would benefit from having freedom campers because they tended to spend all the money they have, even if not on accommodation.

"They're going to spend every cent they are carrying," he said.

"If they do go to Moutoa Quay, it just means they spend more at Stellar or at Countdown or going up the elevator."