22 Aug 2017

New Plymouth poised to ban some freedom campers

3:05 pm on 22 August 2017

New Plymouth is the latest district eying freedom camping restrictions.

Freedom campers at the South Taranaki break at Paroa Road.

A proposed bylaw relating to freedom campers will be voted on by the New Plymouth District Council tomorrow. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Under the proposed bylaw, freedom campers without toilet facilities would be banned from all council-owned or managed land, and there would only be a limited number of sites available for self-contained vehicles.

The proposal follows a spike in the number of freedom campers in Taranaki, which travel guide Lonely Planet named the world's second best region to visit in 2017.

According to a council report, during the first three months of this year 716 freedom campers stayed in the New Plymouth District, more than double the 297 recorded during the same period in 2015.

Non-self-contained freedom campers rose from 55 or 18.5 percent of all freedom campers in 2015 to 294 or 40.1 percent in 2017.

These figures were only for Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 13 sites and the report said it was reasonable to conclude the actual number of freedom campers was far higher.

Complaints about freedom campers have also been on the rise.

Up to 17 July this year, 41 complaints have been received about freedom campers. Forty-four were received in all of 2016 - more than double the 19 complaints made in 2015.

Complaints ranged from overcrowding, littering, to campers defecating in public places and overstaying the existing three-day limit.

The report said restrictions on non-self-contained freedom camping were required to protect the environment in areas where camping was popular, and the health and safety of people visiting those areas.

It said a new bylaw would allow council to better monitor freedom camping and enforce its rules through the issuing of fines rather than pursuing offenders through the courts as required under its Public Places Bylaw.

The report noted that the new bylaw would effectively ban all non-self-contained freedom camping in the district, which could have a negative impact on the economic benefits of tourism and this type of traveller could choose to go elsewhere.

It also said effective monitoring and enforcement of the bylaw could be problematic.

Council officers called for more direction from the elected members on what measures could be taken to cater for non-self-contained freedom campers in the vicinity of public toilets.

If the council's planning committee adopts the proposed bylaw tomorrow it will be open for public submissions until 26 September.

As part of that process the public will be asked for its ideas on how to cater for non-self-contained freedom campers.