Council takes tough love approach with freedom campers

Published: Mon 10 Dec 2018 09:59 AM
6 December, 2018
Campers enjoying a pre-Christmas stay at one of Whangarei’s designated freedom camping areas are in for some tough love.
In a move aimed at sending a clear message to freedom campers before the peak season begins, Whangarei District Council is conducting a ticketing blitz on inappropriate camper behaviour at its 22 designated freedom camping areas between 10 and 20 December.
“We want campers to understand that staying at our place for free is a privilege and that we expect our non-paying guests to play by the house rules,” says Whangarei mayor, Sheryl Mai.
“Having got that message, we then want them to spread the word through social media and other internet channels that Whangarei expects compliance with its freedom camping regulations.”
Campers staying overnight in the right place, keeping noise to a minimum, using our toilets appropriately and disposing of waste in the right way, will have nothing to worry about between 10 and 20 December, and can enjoy their stay. However, those not following the rules will receive a $200 fine from an enforcement officer.
Freedom campers are defined by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) as those staying at unofficial camp sites in a tent, caravan, campervan or motorhome. MBIE reports 110,000 full time or part time international freedom campers visited New Zealand in the 2017/2018 season, up from 60,000 in 2015 and 20,000 in 2005.
“A sizeable proportion came north, mostly over summer, and joined thousands of local and domestic campers looking for a good time in our special places,” Mayor Mai says.
“We welcomed with open arms those who stayed at one of Whangarei’s well-provisioned commercial or Department of Conservation camp grounds, as well as the freedom campers who behaved responsibly.
“However, the irresponsible actions of some freedom campers resulted in a compromised summer for many Whangarei residents, and a lack of parking spaces for them at their favourite summer spots.”
Council’s pre-Christmas ticketing blitz aims to send the message that such behaviour won’t be tolerated this year, and we are relying on the campers themselves to publicise it.
“Freedom campers have a network of blogs, apps and social media pages on which they post and read comments,” Mayor Mai says.
“As the blitz rolls out, we hope they use this technology to spread the word that Whangarei expects campers to respect its rules, with an expensive fine for those who don’t.”
The ticketing blitz forms part of a wider summer freedom camping programme that includes the use of friendly local ambassadors at nine of the district’s most popular freedom camping areas.
“Ambassadors will have an afternoon presence at these sites starting 20 December as the ticketing blitz ends, and will work with enforcement officers to promote responsible camper behaviour for the remainder of the peak camping season,” Mayor Mai says.
“If the ticketing blitz and technology have done their job, the ambassadors should have an easy and enjoyable visit, with campers already knowing what is expected of them.”

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