Local board braces for freedom camping influx

As summer holidays approach, the problems caused by large numbers of freedom campers are concerning residents and the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board.

The issues include a reduction in the number of car parks available at popular seaside spots, people in vehicles that are not self-contained putting pressure on public toilets, and rubbish.

Last summer, an Auckland Council trial gave the local board some teeth, including additional signs and patrols at dusk, to reduce the impact of freedom camping in places such as Arundel Reserve and the car park by Orewa Surf Club. However, with the trial over, chair Julia Parfitt says enforcement of No Camping Overnight signs is difficult. The local board does not have the budget to pay a person to patrol after hours and ask people to move on.

Orewa Surf Club president John Chapman says that problems have got steadily worse in Orewa Reserve, ever since the freedom camping trial ended in April.

“It’s already way worse than it was last year in Orewa Reserve and Arundel carpark is full to overflowing first thing in the morning,” he says.

Club members have been keeping track of the numbers of freedom campers, which indicate that three to four nights of every week, there are more than 30 vehicles parked in Orewa Reserve. Large campervans, parallel parked, can take up as many as six spaces each.

“Previously we thought that a limited amount of camping was not necessarily a bad thing,” Mr Chapman says. “However it is now obvious that without an ongoing, concerted policing policy by Council staff, there will be an ever increasing number of campers using the reserve.”

He says the club believes that freedom camping in the reserve should be banned.

Back in August, Auckland Council voted to bring in an Auckland-wide Freedom Camping bylaw that will give Council staff powers to issue infringement notices. The process of enacting the bylaw is expected to take until next summer.

That timeframe has, Mrs Parfitt said, left the local board and the community in the lurch.

“I personally don’t believe that freedom camping mixes with an urban setting, particularly as Council does not have the resources to police it effectively,” she says.

Before the holidays begin, the local board is meeting with Council staff to see how the situation could be managed.

Mrs Parfitt says the lack of enforcement to back up the signs has been noted on an app that is circulated amongst freedom campers.

“We are not sitting on our hands and are trying to find a way to manage this until the new bylaw is in place,” she says. “I understand residents’ frustration and we pleaded with Council to give priority to a new bylaw.”

The Freedom Camping Act, introduced in 2011, allows freedom camping unless it is prohibited or restricted in accordance with a bylaw.

Council’s Regulatory Committee chair Linda Cooper says the majority of freedom campers, whether they be local residents or visitors, are responsible and plan their stay in advance. “But with the huge growth in tourism, freedom camping issues are not going away and developing a new bylaw under the Act will provide the tools needed to manage them appropriately,” she says.


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