14 Dec 2019

Freedom campers to get visits from locals who want them to clean up their act

8:01 pm on 14 December 2019

Thousands of freedom campers descending on Whangārei will be getting visits from locals wanting them to clean up their act.

freedom camping. van. night time.

Freedom camping is popular in Whangārei - about 7000 campers using just 10 sites in the area last year. Photo: Unsplash / Johanna Persson

The Whangārei District Council (WDC) is sending ambassadors to the 13 most popular freedom camping spots over the next three weeks.

"We're trying to encourage this year amongst our freedom campers that they are both responsible and sustainable freedom campers," said Sue Halliwell, a responsible camping co-ordinator at the WDC.

She said there were limited freedom camping spaces during peak demand in December-January, with about 7000 campers using just 10 sites in Whangārei last year.

"Book yourself a commercial campground in Whangārei because you certainly cannot guarantee getting a space at one of the very limited freedom camping sites."

This year, the freedom camping ambassadors will deploy for longer, and across four more sites than last year.

They will be visiting camping sites from now until 21 February 2020.

The work is being funded in part by a grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Government this year directed nearly $8 million in funding to improving camping facilities and education, including an app for camping ambassadors to use.

Other regions have not taken as kindly to the practice.

The Kaikōura District Council in November banned freedom camping at 11 areas and imposed restrictions at a further six sites from 18 December.

Earlier in December, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced new initiatives in a bid to help councils and communities better manage the upcoming surge in visitors.

They included artificial intelligence, solar powered cameras and special ambassadors.

At least 10 camping sites will be monitored by artificially intelligent, solar-powered cameras that show campers whether the campsite they planned to stay in is full via the CamperMate app.

And the Kaikōura district will be the canary in the coalmine for a new pilot showing campers where they can and can't stay using zones maps on the CamperMate app.

The planned changes are being welcomed by communities most affected by freedom campers, who are now being dubbed "responsible campers" to try and encourage better behaviour.

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