The Whanganui District Council is backing government proposals to regulate freedom camping and preparing a new bylaw of its own.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is looking at ways to make freedom camping more sustainable in New Zealand.
Three of its proposals are supported by the council - to make it mandatory for freedom-camping vehicles to certified self-contained, improving the regulatory tools for government land managers, and strengthening the requirements for self-contained vehicles.
Councillor Rob Vinsen told this week's council meeting he had recently spent two weeks travelling through "campervan territory " and noted councils at several popular sites had banned freedom camping.
He also said some campervan rental companies offered a refundable deposit to travellers who did not use the onboard toilets.
"Offering a refundable deposit of $200 seems completely against the whole premise of having toilets in vans."
Vinsen asked council senior policy analyst Justin Walters if it would be possible to address the issue.
The council received funding from MBIE in September 2019 to establish a freedom-camping ambassador programme over the peak holiday season to educate campers on their responsibilities and promote compliant behaviour.
It was intended the programme would enable the council to determine the merits of establishing a bylaw to improve freedom camping in Whanganui.
Councillor Helen Craig said she would have difficulty supporting the submission without seeing the report from camping ambassador Faith Tioro.
Walters said the ambassador had drafted a report and the submission also had input from the compliance team.
Craig said freedom camping was a big issue for many people in Whanganui and recalled that an initial report from the ambassador found the return from freedom campers was less than $30 for each camper.
"Surely that would inform a lot of what we would submit on," she said.
"Without seeing the latest report we might be having a very different discussion about whether we support freedom camping."
Craig said she would be reluctant to support the submission without seeing the report.
Tioro's contract has now ended and council chief executive Kym Fell said her final report had been used to inform the council's new bylaw, which was being drafted and would be presented at the next council meeting.
Fell said the bylaw addresses the duration of stay and the sites campers can park at.
The council submission recommends an amendment to the MBIE which would allow local authorities to update area restrictions for freedom camping by resolution rather than requiring a full bylaw amendment process.
The motion to submit the amendment to the MBIE was carried by the council.
Submissions on Supporting Sustainable Freedom Camping in Aotearoa New Zealand close on May 16 and there is also the opportunity to complete an online survey on the MBIE website.