Concerns have been raised about the impact of freedom camping on the district's campgrounds.

And now Whangamata RSA offering free "park over" campervan stays has a provider saying people needed to stick "to their own niche" to keep small businesses going post-Covid.

The RSA was allowing New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) and RSA members to stay in self-contained vehicles on its property free of charge.

However, a Whangamata accommodation provider, who did not wish to be named, said freedom campers had a huge impact on their business and the RSA's operation, in her view, was not helping them.

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"People should really be sticking to their own niche."

She said a food beverage place offering freedom camping took business away from other people in the town, who needed it more than ever after the lockdown.

"Everyone should be able to get a slice of the pie."

This week the provider only had one person staying but had freedom campers sneaking on to their land to use their facilities.

She said it was impossible to monitor as they "couldn't stay awake all night".

She wished that freedom camping would be more restricted over the winter season and post-Covid so local businesses could stay afloat, she said.

A spokeswoman from the RSA said Whangamata was a "motorhome friendly town" and it was something they decided to offer to their club members as well as NZMCA members.

Other RSA clubs around the country offered the same service and it allowed them to promote their club, she said.

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They operated the "park over property" or "pop stop" which was in easy walking distance from the shops and the beach, she said.

The Whangamata RSA. Photo / Google Maps
The Whangamata RSA. Photo / Google Maps

"We just want to make everyone feel welcome."

Thames-Coromandel District Council had issued 448 freedom camping fines in the district so far this year and received 104 complaints.

The majority of the infringements were issued to vehicles that were not certified as self-contained. Others were for camping in areas that were prohibited or outside of the designated freedom camping area.

A council spokeswoman said the RSA was within its rights to allow NZMCA members to stay in its car park overnight without a fee.

"We understand they limit overnight campers to NZMCA members in certified self-contained vehicles."

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The council had rules for all public areas owned by the council. The main one was that a person had to be in a certified self-contained vehicle.

If the rules, under the council's 2014 bylaw for freedom camping, were not followed council could impose a $200 fine.

In Whangamata, prohibited freedom camping areas were in the Beach Rd reserves, the Hunt Rd Beach access, the library car park, Otahu Point Reserve and Te Titoki Reserve.

The RSA did not fall under this category or within the restricted zone either.

Top 10 Waihi Beach Holiday Resort and Top 10 Beachaven Holiday Park owner Ian Smith said it was the "right of every Kiwi" to be able to freedom camp.

But where and how it was done needed to be better monitored.

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He said it was clear and quantifiable that holiday parks brought a huge amount of revenue into a town, whereas there was no data showing this same thing for freedom campers.

Holiday parks paid rates, taxes and employed local staff whose wages would also go back into the local economy, he said.

A "right to park" in many places "hurt holiday parks across the board", he said.

There needed to be one law across the country on freedom camping as many international tourists came unaware of each district's rules, he said.

He believed freedom camping should be allowed in many 100km/h zones, but not in 50km/h and 70km/h zones where it can impact local business.

"What about those people who pay top-dollar for beachfront views to have campervans parked in front of them?"

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On Friday, the Hauraki District Council announced that two new freedom camping sites could be introduced in Waihi while more no-go camping zones were established in the area.

"We want to encourage responsible freedom camping in our district by providing suitable locations that are set up to cater for this," Mayor Toby Adams said.

"For instance, at the moment there's no specific area for freedom camping in Waihi, so we're hoping to create an area for this in the car park between Mueller and Haszard Sts and at the Morgan Park car park on Kenny St."

He said they were seeking feedback from the community on this until August 17.

A council spokeswoman said they received few complaints about freedom campers and did not issue fines but instead reminded people of the bylaw rules.

"This approach has worked for us to date."

She said they had seen a resurgence of freedom campers since lockdown ended.

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