Freedom campers descend on Dunedin park with 100 vehicles a night
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Freedom campers have been flocking to Warrington beach near Dunedin in record numbers with up to 100 vehicles parking at the village's domain each night during summer.
In November last year, after a close vote of eight to six, Dunedin City Council voted against banning vehicles without toilets from camping inside the city boundary.
The domain is one of only two approved freedom camping sites near the city - the other is at Ocean View - that allow non-self-contained vehicles.
Warrington resident Ken McHoull said there had been about a 10 per cent increase in the number of campers at the domain on last year, but everything had continued to work well.
Every morning McHoull counted the number of campers at the domain and said during the peak camping season, December to February, up to 100 vehicles were parked there each day.
Despite the increase, McHoull said the site had worked well and was in fact an example of how the rest of New Zealand could treat freedom campers.
"If you have a space with some facilities for them to use all of the rubbish issues and the toilet issues just disappear.''
But some residents are not pleased freedom campers can park for the night.
Rhys Owen said all the council did when it decided not to ban non-self-contained vehicles was push the problem to places like Warrington.
The vehicles were also parking outside the gravelled area set aside for them, but not being fined, Owen said.
Most nights up to 20 non-self-contained vehicles parked where they were not allowed, he said.
''If they aren't issuing tickets or moving infringing freedom campers on to camp grounds, what are we paying them for?''
The council's security contractors did not seem to be doing what ratepayers paid them to, he said.
Owen said he was not alone in his frustration and many residents, himself included, had stopped complaining to the council, because they felt they were being ignored.
Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Alasdair Morrison said the summer had been a success and there had been almost no issues, except for heavy rain sometimes closing the site.
Unlike Owen, Morrison thought the segregated areas the council had installed had worked well.
''Despite the slight increase in numbers it's been very fine season and I think Ken has done a fabulous job at maintain the ground and making sure everything runs smoothly.''
To ease some of the pressure on the domain, Morrison said he would continue to push the council to open other freedom camping areas in the city.
Nationally freedom camping has become a hot topic, with many councils and communities debating whether to allow the practice and under what regulations.
The argument centres around whether "parking-up" to camp around New Zealand is a quintessential part of Kiwi life, or whether is it potentially damaging to the public spaces.
Many councils and residents have reported campers creating a raft of problems, including; using property as toilets, leaving rubbish behind, making a stink, sneaking into holiday parks to use their facilities and causing an eyesore with the clutter of vehicles.
This has caused councils to consider bylaws that restrict freedom camping, enforce vehicle clamping and put infringements in place.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan expressed his thoughts and frustrations about freedom camping earlier this year.
"If I could, I would employ someone with a high-powered slug gun and a decent scope to take aim at the bare backside of anyone seen defecating in the open and I would put people who dump litter in our beautiful places in public stocks," he said.
He said even though there was a strong call to ban freedom camping outright, the Freedom Camping Act 2011 said territorial authorities could not ban it.
"Until or unless the Government in Wellington decides to place a ban on freedom camping, it is here to stay."
- Otago Daily Times