Ferry passengers prompt talks of new freedom camping site in Picton

5:44 pm on 29 December 2020

Freedom camping sites in and around Picton might be down, but not out.

Generic pic of Picton's ferry terminal and the town.

Picton, with the ferry terminal pictured. Photo: RNZ / Matt Chatterton

Talks will begin next year between the Marlborough District Council and Port Marlborough over an "appropriate" spot to put freedom campers looking to use the ferries.

This comes weeks after two proposed sites were tossed from the seaside town, following opposition from residents and businesses.

The council's freedom camping subcommittee said in their decision document last month that many of Marlborough's campers used Picton's ferries, and a place was needed for them.

The first version of the bylaw suggested opening two sites in Picton, one by the marina and one off High St but this drew the ire of residents - and Port Marlborough, which declared the marina site a health and safety and security risk.

The port zone in Picton, pink, extends from the town's foreshore to Shakespeare Bay. It is said to be an unsuitable area for campers.

The port zone in Picton, pink, extends from the town's foreshore to Shakespeare Bay. It is said to be an unsuitable area for campers. Photo: SUPPLIED / MDC

Councillors voted last month to shut three proposed new sites, plus another eight existing ones, leaving the council with just five sites, after strong opposition during hearings this year.

At the hearings, Picton residents suggested that the port set up a freedom camp site, possibly as part of its terminal upgrade, as an alternative to the two sites.

Picton Smart and Connected freedom camping group chair Richard Briggs told the freedom camping bylaw sub-committee, which was running the hearings, it was clear most people that camped in the town centre were waiting for early or late ferries.

Port Marlborough chief executive Rhys Welbourn told the bylaw's sub-committee while it had not thought about creating an area for campers, the port was open to being part of a "broader think-tank".

 Port Marlborough chief executive Rhys Welbourn

Port Marlborough chief executive Rhys Welbourn. Photo: SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF

This could pinpoint areas suitable for freedom camping, he said, like Koromiko Recreation Reserve - recently shut down - or "somewhere along Dublin St".

Setting up a freedom camping site on land zoned for the port would not however be possible, he said, as it had restricted access areas.

"I would also suggest it doesn't meet the port's long-term goals."

The port zone runs along the coastal side of Queen Charlotte Dr, from Shakespeare Bay to the Kent St and Dublin St roundabout.

Councillor David Oddie, on the sub-committee, told Welbourn the public thought the ferries contributed to the freedom camping "problem", and so the port should therefore be part of the solution.

Freedom camping sub-committee chair David Oddie says a freedom camping area in Picton will help campers coming on and off the ferries.
Truck Park

Freedom camping sub-committee chair David Oddie says a freedom camping area in Picton will help campers coming on and off the ferries. Photo: RICKY WILSON / STUFF / SUPPLIED

"That's not coming from us. That's coming from the submitters."

Koromiko's site - previously the nearest freedom camping site to Picton - had since closed under the new bylaw. This made Spring Creek's Wairau Diversion and Blenheim's Wynen St car park the next closest camp sites, both about a 25-minute drive from Picton.

Oddie said the sub-committee understood ferry passengers did not want to arrive at a site late at night, and had hoped Port Marlborough would provide a site on port land.

"Port Marlborough are aware of the problem they create through their ferry activities, and to date they haven't wanted to be part of the conversation to be part of that solution," Oddie said.

"It might not be a camping site, per se, but an area where people arriving in their campervan can wait overnight while waiting to board the ferry, and vice versa, which also has the advantage of encouraging people not to get behind the wheel at odd hours."

The council agreed last month proposals for new freedom camping sites had to go out for public feedback before opening.

A council spokesman said talks were due to begin next year.

Passengers who arrived at the Wellington Interislander terminal early could park up for $20 a day. Bluebridge's website recommended campervans park at nearby campgrounds.

Welbourn could not be reached for further comment last week.

In red are the Marlborough District Council-owned freedom camping sites that were closed this year under a new bylaw.

In red are the Marlborough District Council-owned freedom camping sites that were closed this year under a new bylaw. Photo: SUPPLIED

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