Part of Waihi Beach has become a freedom camping designated area, following a decision to enable more overnight visitors to the Western Bay of Plenty.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council this week agreed to lease an area of land on Emerton Road, next to the Waihi Beach airstrip, for members to use for overnight camping.

Increased pressure for freedom camping areas in Waihi Beach over the peak summer season had raised issues for the council — particularly at Anzac Bay.

While the lease of the Emerton Road site will not eliminate issues with freedom campers, it gave an alternative site for New Zealand Motor Caravan Association motorhome travellers. The site would not be available for general freedom campers and hire vans.


Association vice president Ross Hamilton said the lease agreement was one way the Association could work with the council to take pressure off areas such as Anzac Bay.

The Association had a network of activities nationwide in connection with councils, including Katikati which was part of the Motor Home Friendly Town programme.

"We work with councils on many initiatives such as tree planting, spring cleans and dump stations. We put a lot back into the communities we visit — and we promote the towns we use," Mr Hamilton said.

"We believe it is very important to maintain a self-contained standard for freedom camping to help eliminate the undesirable vehicles that come into towns."

Association members would take full responsibility of turning the 5000 square metre Emerton Road site into an attractively landscaped and fenced camping area, at zero cost to the council, and hope to have it ready for use this summer. The assocation would also pay an annual rent for the lease area.

Waihi Beach Community Board chair Allan Sole was delighted with the arrangement and said the beach had a great deal to offer its visitors.

It is estimated motorhome visitors spend an average of $80 daily, so it can only be a positive for the local retailers and tourist businesses to encourage such initiatives, Mr Sole said.