16 Mar 2017

New home for freedom campers near Blenheim

From Checkpoint, 5:54 pm on 16 March 2017

A Marlborough man has come up with an innovative way to keep freedom campers and their waste off the streets.

no caption

Photo: RNZ/ Tom Furley

Chris Wagner has created KiwiCamp, a freedom camping site, which includes an ablution block with showers, toilets and washing facilities.

From tomorrow, KiwiCamp will offer a free space near Blenheim for campers to pull up, scan an app on their phone and stay the night. Campers will have free access to toilets and drinking water while showers will cost $2 and doing a load of washing $4.

Mr Wagner came up with the idea after his Riverlands Roadhouse truck stop regularly became home for between 30 and 40 freedom campers every night.

Payment for use of the ablutions block had been by a coin machine, but there were problems such as vandalism, bent coins breaking the coin machine and having to empty it, he said.

The entrepreneur said that was why he came up with the app - to allow freedom campers to pay for facilities using an app or a card which could be loaded with credit.

The scheme was not intended as a money-making venture but as a way to fix some of the problems associated with freedom camping, he said.

He hoped councils around the country would take up this type of facility.

"Tourism is getting bigger and bigger every year and this problem's not going to go away. Councils are being hit with the bill and the local population are having to deal with the problem."

Sites such as this meant that freedom campers could go to a designated site away from the public, Mr Wagner said.

"If you want to have a free night, you pay for what you use - but you're not going to get a beautiful view of lakes or mountains of New Zealand."

A lot of publicity about freedom camping was negative but better facilities could help.

"These young people, they don't want to poo in the bushes, they don't want to leave their rubbish on the street, the reason they do it is because they don't have an option."