Camp­site full? There’s an app for that

The Press - - Business - AMANDA CROPP

Hi-tech so­lu­tions are help­ing coun­cils come to grips with free­dom camp­ing is­sues.

Ground sen­sors in two pop­u­lar Wellington free­dom camp­ing sites are telling po­ten­tial campers when the camp­sites are full to pre­vent over­crowd­ing. And so­lar-pow­ered com­pact­ing rub­bish bins that alert con­trac­tors when they need emp­ty­ing are cut­ting the mess at camp­ing ar­eas and pic­nic spots.

The sen­sors, like those used in car parks, were in­stalled in park­ing ar­eas at free­dom camp­ing sites in Evans and Owhiro bays in Au­gust as part of a pi­lot by Smart Park­ing, free­dom camp­ing app Cam­perMate and the Wellington City Coun­cil.

Cam­perMate founder Adam Hutchin­son said the sen­sors had po­ten­tial for other ar­eas where over­crowd­ing was an is­sue.

‘‘The prob­lem in Wellington was that peo­ple were com­mit­ting to driv­ing the 7 kilo­me­tres to Owhiro Bay, then re­al­is­ing it was full, but stay­ing any­way be­cause they’d driven out there.’’

In­for­ma­tion from the ground sen­sors al­lowed Cam­perMate to tell users that all the avail­able camp­ing spots were taken.

Hutchin­son said data track­ing showed that all 72 app users who looked at Owhiro Bay and found it was full opted to go else­where.

‘‘It’s pro­vid­ing peo­ple with in­for­ma­tion in real time when they’re mak­ing these de­ci­sions.’’

He said un­paved free­dom camp­ing ar­eas could use the tech­nol­ogy by set­ting the sen­sors in con­crete.

Since it be­gan leas­ing out Big Belly lit­ter bins fit­ted with so­lar­pow­ered com­pactors, Manco En­vi­ron­men­tal has in­stalled more than 200 through­out the coun­try.

Prod­uct man­ager Ben Calvert said com­pactor bins held the equiv­a­lent of 600 litres com­pared with the 60-litre ca­pac­ity of stan­dard bins in parks and re­serves.

Con­trac­tors re­ceived an email alert when bins needed emp­ty­ing and coun­cils could down­load an app to mon­i­tor us­age.

‘‘Some coun­cils have had a 95 per cent in­crease in ef­fi­ciency. Say they did 14 col­lec­tions; now they do one due to the com­paction, plus they get the data,’’ he said.

Calvert said there was a lot of scep­ti­cism when the bins came out 18 months ago. ‘‘Peo­ple laughed and said ‘You’re dream­ing if you think coun­cils are go­ing to put those in.’’’

Smaller lo­cal au­thor­i­ties had been faster to adopt the new tech­nol­ogy and ap­pre­ci­ated the cost sav­ings, he said.

So­lar-pow­ered rub­bish com­pactors such as this bin at Whir­i­toa on the Coro­man­del are help­ing over­come lit­ter prob­lems at free­dom camp­ing sites.

Ground sen­sors al­low free­dom campers want­ing to stay at Wellington’s Evans Bay to find out in ad­vance whether overnight park­ing is avail­able.

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