Camper move de­fended

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE - CARLY GOOCH

As frus­tra­tions grow over free­dom campers be­ing ac­com­mo­dated with more sites, the coun­cil wants to as­sure Nel­son res­i­dents it was done in good faith.

Un­til re­cently, free­dom campers flocked to one of two sites to be close to fa­cil­i­ties – Mont­gomery and Bux­ton Square car parks in the cen­tre of town.

Nel­son City Coun­cil deputy mayor Paul Mathe­son said the coun­cil thought it could han­dle the flood of about 1000 campers over the sea­son un­til they were told the num­ber would be more than 3000.

‘‘Out of the blue, the po­lice came to us about six weeks ago and said, ‘You guys re­alise you’re go­ing to have a huge in­flux of free­dom campers be­cause they’d tra­di­tion­ally go to Kaik­oura, and they can’t.’

‘‘We were caught and there’s noth­ing much we could’ve done about it, so what do you do, you man­age it.’’

Mathe­son said a sug­ges­tion was made to al­lo­cate some space, al­low campers to stay two nights max­i­mum and move on.

‘‘That way we were man­ag­ing where they were go­ing to be.’’

A bud­get of up to $80,000 was al­lot­ted to the project to pro­vide toi­lets, rub­bish bins and wi-fi to three new ar­eas to en­cour­age campers away from the cen­tral city. The sites are avail­able only from De­cem­ber 15 to April 1.

Mathe­son said with­out the ini­tia­tive of the new sites at Ak­er­sten St, Haven Rd and Rutherford Park, the cost would be ‘‘far greater’’.

More staff would have to be em­ployed and a lot of time would be spent clean­ing up un­der trees, bushes and along the Maitai River, he said.

‘‘This way they’re all cor­ralled, they’re there and it’s all con­fined. We’re not hav­ing to pay big bucks to clean up the city every day.’’

Coun­cil com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Paul Shat­tock said the coun­cil was aware the com­mu­nity had ‘‘pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive’’ views on free­dom camp­ing.

Com­ment­ing on Face­book about the is­sue, Kevin Smith said free­dom campers were ‘‘freeload­ing’’.

‘‘Why en­cour­age th­ese par­a­sites.’’ A re­cent poll on The Leader’s Neigh­bourly site showed 73 per cent of the 404 votes were in favour of ban­ning free­dom camp­ing from pub­lic car parks.

Although the com­mu­nity has neg­a­tive feel­ings to­wards the lib­erty-seek­ing campers, New Zealand leg­is­la­tion pro­tects free­dom campers, en­sur­ing it can’t be legally stamped out but can only be reg­u­lated.

On one Face­book post, Steve Day said the coun­cil needed to in­tro­duce a by­law ban­ning free­dom campers in the city ‘‘un­less they are fully self con­tained, in­tro­duce stiff fines and wheel clamps.’’

Mathe­son said though Nel­son no longer had a by­law for free­dom camp­ing as it was ‘‘dumped’’ back in 2011, there were plans to rein­tro­duce one later this year.

‘‘We would prob­a­bly ban them [free­dom campers] out of carparks but we have to man­age it. It’s not go­ing to go away. It’s prob­a­bly go­ing to get big­ger.’’

Mathe­son hoped the

Gov­ern­ment would come out with a by­law for every­one as towns and cities had dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tions for free­dom camp­ing. ‘‘The poor old tourist is prob­a­bly more con­fused than any­body.’’

PHOTO: MARTIN DE RUYTER/ FAIRFAX NZ

‘‘This way they're all cor­ralled, they're there and it's all con­fined. ’’

Deputy mayor Paul Mathe­son Free­dom campers in Mont­gomery Square are be­ing asked to use new sites.

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