People have been spotted defecating in the dunes near Pāpāmoa Beach.

A Pāpāmoa resident, who wished to remain anonymous, was walking her dogs in Taylor Reserve about 8.30am on Sunday when she caught "a guy in the act" in the sand dunes.

"I shouted quite loudly, 'That's disgusting. What do you think you are doing?'," she said.

The man said there were no toilet facilities for him to use and explained he could not hold on. The man's friend apologised and the woman directed the men to the nearby toilets.

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The woman said people on social media had slammed freedom campers for doing the dirty deed. However, she believed the two men she had spotted were fishermen.

The resident walked her dogs in the area daily and said people should be punished for defecating in the area.

"It is not on. My kids run and play in those sand dunes," she said. "If we have to pick up after our dogs then people should be made to pick up after themselves."

Tauranga City Council bylaws, parking and customer service team leader Stuart Goodman said the council received a complaint regarding Taylor Reserve on January 13.

Last month, two complaints were received relating to people urinating or defecating on the foreshore opposite Alexander Place.

Council parks and recreation manager Mark Smith was disappointed to hear people had been defecating in Taylor Reserve, especially because the reserve had a public toilet.

"Dunes are fragile spaces, and using them as a toilet can disturb the environment as well as pose a public health hazard," he said.

"[The] council maintains more than 70 public toilets across the city, and we urge people to use these rather than soiling public places."

Pāpāmoa/Mount Maunganui ward councillor Steve Morris said there was a lack of toilets along the stretch of Pāpāmoa beach.

There were three public toilets along the Pāpāmoa coastline - one each at Taylor, Motiti and Simpson reserves, he said.

"It is a bit of an issue when you consider how long the coastline is and the number of people who are here," he said. "But it still doesn't excuse people doing that right next to the toilets."

Morris said $16 million was planned to be on upgrading reserves in the Pāpāmoa area, including a new sports reserve in Te Tumu and a further $5.7m on the Wairakei Stream landscape plan.

The council was also upgrading public toilets in the area, with the toilets at Motiti Reserve expected to be upgraded this year.

Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said proper disposal of human waste was important.

Shoemack said human faeces carried micro-organisms that could easily contaminate water supplies and soils, which could lead to diseases such as giardiasis and be spread from person to person.

"In most cases the ill-health effects from exposure are short-lived, however, there is the potential for more serious diseases, such as hepatitis A, or salmonella infection," he said.

A police media communications spokesman said members of the public should contact the Tauranga City Council if campers were thought to be breaching freedom camping bylaws.

However, people should contact police if they spotted campers behaving criminally.

Taylor Reserve is a freedom camping area. The freedom camping bylaw is currently under review.

Freedom camping must-dos:

- Must be in a self-contained vehicle displaying an NZS5465:2001 self-containment warrant and any subsequent replacement certification requirements
- Parked in the designated area for freedom camping when camping on a reserve
- Parked legally
- No depositing in or around a public litter receptacle of any household refuse
- All waste and litter generated must be removed from the area
- Do not prevent others from undertaking legitimate activities in the location
- Do not stay in any one reserve or council car park or in any one street for more than two nights per calendar month
- No lighting of any fires at the site
- Must comply with the noise requirements set out in the City Plan for Open Space Zones
- Comply with all of the particular restrictions which apply to freedom camping at that location

What happens if you break the rules?

- Council can issue instant $200 fines to anyone caught breaching the freedom camping bylaw. You may also be liable for prosecution.

Source: Tauranga City Council