Kaikōura curbs freedom camping ahead of summer

3:27 pm on 1 December 2019

Tough new freedom camping rules that ban camping at a number of areas are being praised by Kaikōura residents.

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Self-contained campervans drive past Kiwa Rd, one of several areas where freedom camping will be banned under the Kaikōura District Council's new bylaw. Photo: Chloe Ranford / LDR

The Kaikōura District Council signed off on its freedom camping bylaw at a meeting on Wednesday, months after a petition called for the removal of camping sites.

The new bylaw will ban freedom camping at 11 areas from 18 December, including popular surf spot Kiwa Rd, in Mangāmāunu, and in the Kaikōura township. Six sites, including the Scarborough St Reserve, will also restrict freedom camping to a maximum of three nights over a month.

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Kiwa Rd, near Kaikōura, is a popular freedom camping site in the summer. Photo: Chloe Ranford / LDR

Let's Go Away shop owner Penny Betts thought the council's new bylaw would have little impact on the town's tourism.

"People who want to travel will travel," she said.

"Freedom camping travellers don't spend much money anyway. That's the whole point of freedom camping.

"We will still get tourists, and really we want the tourists that will spend their money. People who come in a campervan and go to the campgrounds spend buckets of money."

Ms Betts' only concern was that freedom campers would sneak onto camp sites at night, and evade enforcement.

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Penny Betts thinks the new bylaw will have little impact on Kaikōura's tourism. Photo: Chloe Ranford / LDR

Under the new bylaw, freedom campers caught washing dishes at public facilities, hanging out laundry or defecating in public will be hit with a $200 fine.

The tougher regime will replace the council's old policy under the Freedom Camping Act, which allowed campers to set up where they liked, upsetting local residents.

Kaikōura resident Lila Kemp said the carpark off the town's Esplanade filled with freedom campers in summer months.

"It's good freedom campers are no longer allowed there.

"In the carpark, in the bushes near the toilets, I've found sanitary pads, people's underwear, all sorts. It's not classy, and it's good that we'll now be able to curb that."

Ms Kemp thought it was "perfectly reasonable" that freedom campers be asked to stick to certain sites in Kaikōura.

"It they don't what to do that, then they should pay, and should be supporting our local businesses," she said.

Abbey Road employee Vanessa Norton-Sadler said she was pleased the bylaw would come in before Christmas.

"Since the [2016 Kaikōura] earthquake, freedom camping has gotten really bad. They camped everywhere and there was nothing we could do about it," Ms Norton-Sadler said.

She recalled one freedom camping site which often had triple the number of campers than car parks.

"Just seeing them brushing their teeth in the public toilets, it's not a good look ... A lot of the sites have no toilet facilities, so they're going on the beaches," she said.

"Not all freedom camping is bad, and I'm not against it, but we didn't have good camping areas set up in the past."

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Vanessa Norton-Sadler says she's pleased the new bylaw will come into effect before Christmas. Photo: Chloe Ranford / LDR

Groper Garage manager Nick Mansfield said he thought monitoring freedom campers was a "good idea".

Mr Mansfield thought freedom campers contribute a large amount to Kaikōura's tourism, with his restaurant alone pulling in a "couple thousand" over the summer season.

"They eat at our supermarkets, fill up at our fuel stations. They buy souvenirs and go whale watching," he said.

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Nick Mansfield says monitoring freedom campers is a "good idea". Photo: Chloe Ranford / LDR

Kaikōura resident Mackenzie Kirk said she supported the bylaw, and felt it would not affect the town's tourism.

The council agreed to spend $140,000 to develop and enforce a freedom camping bylaw as part of this year's annual plan. It undertook a one-month public consultation period, from 11 September to 11 October, which drew 183 submissions from people and organisations.

The move followed the Marlborough District Council's decision in June to review its freedom camping bylaw for the fourth time in 13 years, after freedom camping concerns dominated the council's annual plan submissions.

An interactive online map showing the areas in which freedom camping will be permitted, or prohibited, will be sent to residents in early December.

The bylaw proposal was different to the "master plan" put forward by the council earlier this year, to protect areas around the Kiwa Rd surf break.

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