13 Sep 2020

Freedom camping infringements decreasing in Dunedin

6:36 pm on 13 September 2020

The problems of freedom camping seem to be behind the city of Dunedin, according to a new council report.

Freedom camping

File photo. Photo: RNZ

The freedom camping end of season report will go to the Dunedin City Council (DCC) on Monday.

It shows the number of infringements issued to campers plummeted by 54 percent.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are also clear.

The number of freedom campers was up 22 percent from November 2019 to February this year, but declined rapidly in March and total freedom camping numbers for the season were down 17 percent on the year before.

"The Covid-19 pandemic is likely responsible for the 35 percent decrease in campers during March. DCC freedom camping sites were closed from 25 March 2020 to 13 May 2020 to meet Ministry of Health Level 3 and Level 4 lockdown restrictions.

"DCC freedom camping sites were reopened when lockdown was lifted and 500 campers were counted at these sites from 14 May 2020 to 31 May 2020," the report said.

Non-self-contained vehicles were allowed to stay at three sites around Dunedin during the freedom camping season - Warrington Domain, Ocean View Reserve and a central city carpark.

In previous years, the Warrington Domain and Ocean View Reserve had caused controversy with locals in those areas. It reached fever pitch in 2017, as locals called for a freedom camping ban as close to 150 vehicles packed into the Warrington site.

But the council report showed the highest number of vehicles at the domain topped out at 86 this season.

More than half of the 316 infringement notices issued were to freedom campers found in a restricted area without a valid self-containment certificate.

Two-thirds of the fines had been paid and work was ongoing to recover the remainder, including reminder notices and court summons where required.

Despite the uncertainty for the tourist sector caused by Covid-19, the council said its staff were planning for the beginning of the coming freedom camping season.

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