In theory anyone can pitch a tent, stretch out a sleeping bag or park a campervan in any public place in Whanganui provided they don't breach any bylaws, Whanganui District Council compliance operations manager Warrick Zander says.
This district is one of a few in New Zealand with no bylaws at all about freedom camping.
What it has instead are guidelines, to encourage people to stay the night in areas where there are facilities - such as toilets and water.
The council wants to encourage visitors, but holiday park owners and some residents are annoyed freedom campers are not paying for facilities.
Last year the council hired a freedom camping ambassador to collect information from them and give them advice.
The job is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Theresa (Terry) Enriquez began it in November, and it finishes at the end of May. She's paid for just five hours a week, and finds it hard to restrict her hours to that.
The best time to do her rounds and talk to campers is between 4pm and 8pm, and she tries to vary the spots and to visit on busy nights.
She's finding the numbers vary hugely, for no apparent reason. The Anzac Pde spot, with toilets and one of Whanganui's three dump stations for toilet waste, is by far the busiest. Springvale Park, which has nearby toilets and access to showers in the Splash Centre, is next busiest.
People stay the night in motorhomes, campervans, converted cars and tents.
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Some of them have jobs in Whanganui, and live in their campervans. Those people usually move from site to site.
"They're still contributing [to the economy] because they're getting work on the vans done locally and they're paying their taxes. They just happen to be living a free life," Enriquez said.
Others, on foot or on bicycles, typically stay just one or two nights.
About half the visitors are New Zealanders.
None of them have to talk to Enriquez - but 99 per cent are happy to do so.
The Whanganui Regional Museum is a big drawcard, she's hearing.
But people also visit galleries and ask about New Zealand Glassworks.
Some come just to ride their bicycles around the bridges, others jetboat to the Bridge to Nowhere, or stay a few nights while they get their campervans recertified. Quite a few went to the Winter Gardens at Rotokawau/Virginia Lake over Christmas.
Enriquez advises them about where to find toilets and showers, and not to use the water at dump stations for washing their dishes. She directs them to the i-Site for more information.
She's finding some would like places where they can pay to have a shower, and have sinks to wash their dishes.
When her job finishes Enriquez will report to council about her findings. Councillors will then decide whether Whanganui should have a freedom camping bylaw.
"We hope that by having Terry on the ground we will be able to make a well-informed decision that takes everybody's positions into account," Zander said.