Camper move defended
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.’’
‘‘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.