Auckland's Northcote Point part of scheme allowing vehicle sleepovers

10:43 am on 29 November 2018

Houses in Northcote Point generally go for around $1.4 million but, if you're not too bothered by the slightly dingy toilets, you'll be able to pull your car into Dudding Park and stay a couple of nights for free.

Dudding Park in Northcote Point.

Dudding Park in Northcote Point. Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

The idyllic seaside park is one of 13 sites put forward by Auckland Council as somewhere people can sleep in "non-self-contained vehicles" - in other words any old car - for up to two nights every month.

A further 94 areas would be made available for self-contained vehicles, with restrictions on the number of vehicles and nights allowed, while freedom camping would be banned from 315 places.

Auckland Council has put up a list of over 100 parks where people will be permitted to sleep in their vehicles without having to pay.

The aim of the bylaw is to give the council some control, with enforcement officers able to issue $200 fines.

But some locals whose properties border the free "campsites" aren't too happy and some people who live in their cars fear they'll be penalised if they don't follow the new rules.

It didn't take RNZ long to find someone living in his car at the Northcote Point site.

"I had to move out from where I was living 'cause the house went on the market and I didn't manage to find anywhere to live that I was comfortable I could pay for," said the man, who didn't want his name used.

"I ended up in my car and I've been there ever since."

Rosedale Park on the North Shore

Rosedale Park on the North Shore. Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

The man said he'd move into a rental if he could find one, but right now, this was his only option.

He'd been parking up and sleeping in his car since June, growing tobacco in the passenger's seat and catching the odd fish to save on grocery bills.

He's concerned the new council rules will mean he'll get hassled by authorities.

"Two nights in four weeks is not much, is it? You'd have to shift around a whole lot. They tend to make a game out of everything."

Just across the road, outside the bowling club, there's a young couple and their dog also living in their car.

"It's pretty cruisey, it's a bit easier than having to deal with the normal day-to-day struggles of having a house," the man said.

Keith Hay Park in Mt Roskill

Keith Hay Park in Mt Roskill. Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

However, they, too, would jump on the chance to get rental accommodation if they could afford it.

Unlike their neighbouring car lodger, the couple welcome the council's plans.

"I think it's pretty fair, you don't want to overstay in one place."

Freedom camping woes

Across the Harbour Bridge in upmarket Pt Chevalier, resident Angela Lane is worried about what permitting freedom camping at Eric Armishaw Park would mean for the neighbourhood.

"The facilities get used quite often already by windsurfers and suddenly it becomes a very congested little park," she said.

"For me, it's an inner-city beach and not conducive to freedom camping.

And she's worried about what it will mean for the residents of a large retirement village that borders the site, who aren't used to strangers using the path at the end of their property..

Other people that RNZ spoke to were unconcerned.

Auckland Councillor Linda Cooper said that as it was, the council can't take any action against freedom campers as the activity was permitted by national legislation.

"Under this proposal in a restricted area there will be a limited number of nights people can stay. If they're breaching that then we'll deal with it," she said.

"But the reality is people are staying at these places anyway and there's no rules - people can stay for a long time, and they do. With a restricted park it will only be for one or two nights so we're actually making it better."

She said council staff were trained to help people who were homeless and they would take a sensitive approach.

From Monday the public can have their say on the areas put forward in the bylaw proposal, until February.

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