Freedom camping to be tightly monitored in city

Freedom camping to be tightly monitored in city

Tighter restrictions will soon be placed on the types of vehicles that can make use of the Evans Bay freedom camping site. PHOTO: NICHOLAS POINTON

It is going to be tougher for freedom campers to stay in Wellington City.

The city strategy committee has recommended the council should develop and monitor the Evans Bay freedom camping site. $450,000 would be set aside to construct a toilet block, erect fencing, paint new road marking and  the appointment of a park ranger to manage the site.

Vehicles will also be required to meet a high standard of self-containment to catch out freedom campers who pass their vehicles off as “self-contained.”

Councillor Peter Gilbred said “[This] achieves two objectives, first of all, it reduces the number of vehicles that can actually use the site, so the old bangers that really aren’t self-contained but are pretending to be, aren’t allowed to stay there.

“It will also mean much of the undesirable behaviour that irks the public, won’t occur because campervans will have all the adequate facilities on board.”

Public submissions  outlined concerns around noise, littering and a loss of privacy. There was also a belief that users of the campsite should pay for the facilities they use.

However, if the council was to charge freedom campers to use the site, it would force the site to comply with the Camping-Grounds Regulations 1985. Additionally, under the Freedom Camping Act 2011 the council cannot ban freedom camping.

Councillor Andy Foster introduced an amendment to instruct council officers to investigate how costs can be recovered from freedom campers.

“A lot of this is really the lowest of the level of tourism in terms of the benefit we get, [freedom campers] are trying to do it on the cheap, they’re buying a cheap vehicle or hiring cheap vehicles, some of them have self-contained stickers [on their vehicles] when we know they aren’t – it’s blindingly obvious.

“When we provide a service like this, and I think we should provide a service, I think a campground can be an attractive place so we should it properly.

“Normally, if we go through the services we provide, we will look at the who are the beneficiaries of this and in this case the first beneficiaries are the people camping.So I think we should be asking our officers to at least have a look at ways we can start recovering those costs, because we are providing something for people and it really shouldn’t be free.”

However, Cr Malcolm Sparrow was not sure what the city would gain from developing the Evans Bay site.

“I am not convinced of the so-called benefits of [what] the lower end of freedom camping market brings to the local community without comprehensive evidence.

“What I do have a major problem with is paying $300,000 for a new toilet block being primarily for the benefit of freedom campers, non-rate payers, when we don’t have enough funding for public toilets in Linden for our own rate-payers.”

Cr Chris Calvi-Freeman believed there was an economic benefit to the city but said he was against expanding the number of vehicle spaces. He introduced an amendment which would increase the size of the camp site and extend the maximum length of vehicles beyond seven metres.

“I’ve gone up to eight metres because my researcher tells me that many of the responsible camper van owners with clearly self-contained facilities have vehicles up around eight metres. Some are longer but we do want to discourage huge house buses.”

The amendment received no support.

Councillor Sarah Free said “One of the biggest objections from residents have been the size of vehicles. It’s the big motor homes that has made people feel their environment has changed.”

Currently, the council has 64 freedom camping spaces at restricted sites around the city. A minimum of 96 spots will be required by 2020 to meet a 4% increase in demand according to TRC Tourist Ltd.

The council will review the Public Places Bylaw 2008 before July 31.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Article by NicholasPointon

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