Evans Bay freedom camping site proposal divides council

Evans Bay freedom camping site proposal divides council

Campervans convene for freedom camping at the Evans Bay Marina site. PHOTO: LOUIS DAVIS

A proposal to extend and improve a freedom camping site in Evans Bay has divided Wellington City Councillors.

At a Wellington City Council city strategy committee meeting on May 3, it was agreed council officers should look into how the council stands to financially benefit from investing in the Evans Bay freedom camping site before approving any plans.

A report to the committee proposes to extend Evans Bay’s freedom camping site to accommodate for up to 18 large motor homes (six to eight metres) and 30 standard camper vans (under six metres).

In addition, a new $300,000 public toilet may be installed at the camping site, which would reduce waste from freedom campers. Another park ranger would be employed to monitor the camping site.

Councillor Malcolm Sparrow raised concerns about whether spending $300,000 on toilets was appropriate. He said he would not support spending $300,000 on public toilets when in other areas such as Linden the public have been asking for public toilets.

Cr Sparrow was not convinced of the economic benefits of freedom camping without any “comprehensive evidence”.

Councillor Andy Foster said he believed freedom camping was a problem. He discussed the issue of waste from campers and  described freedom camping as the “lowest level of tourism”.

He said the Council was providing something for people so it should not be free.

Councillor Peter Gilberd supported improving and extending the Evan’s Bay freedom camping site. “The city has to provide places for freedom camping without charge.”

Cr Gilberd said undesirable camping behaviour would be minimised with improvements on Evans Bay’s freedom camping site.

He said freedom campers provide economic benefits to the city because campers spend money. The benefits were great but hard to measure. The perspectives of nearby residents would have to be taken into account if an upgrade of the campsite is to go ahead.

Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman agreed there were economic benefits from freedom camping, but said they were hard to accurately measure.

Councillor Sarah Free said it was the big motorhomes that caused problems to locals.

Free was concerned with ratepayers. “How does the standard ratepayer stand to benefit?

“If we’re going to spend $300,000 on toilets we should accommodate for the wider public and people with mobility issues.”

Councillor Simon Marsh said he was sympathetic to the views and feelings of neighbours and  agreed that large motor homes were an issue for neighbours.

Marsh said freedom camping had a small but important economic benefit.

“I believe we make an investment. We’re making this investment so that we can grow the economy.”

The council will further discuss and consider the proposal at the next  committee meeting in May.

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Article by Louis Davis

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