14 Jul 2015

Freedom campers welcome new law

9:16 am on 14 July 2015

Freedom campers in Christchurch are welcoming a proposed bylaw setting out how long and where they can stay.

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From left, Anton Schmittberger, Emmanuel Feyler and Yannick Sautter. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

The new law to go before a council committee this week limits campers to a maximum stay of three nights on council land, and only if their vehicles have built-in toilets.

Campervans without built-in toilets are restricted to seven locations in the city and on Banks Peninsula. They will be allowed to stay between three and five nights, depending on where they are.

The by-law comes at a cost including $50,000 for signs and $100,000 annually for enforcement.

Those breaking the rules would be fined $200, however council staff have already identified potential problems in getting tourists to pay up.

A report to the Strategy and Finance Committee identifies issues around rule breakers skipping the country without paying.

Clear rules welcome

Anton Schmittberger and his two mates have been freedom camping around New Zealand for the past nine months and after being stung with fines from other councils, he liked the idea of clear rules about what he could and couldn't do.

"When we first arrived in New Zealand, we tried to be self-contained, but got caught twice in the Coromandel, and had to pay $200 both times."

Kevin Breteau, who is working in the rebuild and chooses to live in his van, said the bylaw sounded good because it offered more places for him to stay.

"I don't know any other places apart from this car park. I like it here no one has told us to leave, it is clean and tidy."

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Christchurch rebuild worker Kevin Breteau. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

But Evelyn Witaka, who lives in her self-contained campervan said it was frustrating the bylaw did not distinguish between holidaymakers and people in the city for the rebuild.

"We buy campervans, we have our own toilets, our own dishes, we are responsible. I don't see why we can't park up wherever if we are responsible."

She said people were living in their cars for a reason.

"There is a lack of accommodation for people coming to Christchurch, there is a lot of land around but no one is doing anything to make it available to the people that need it."

Christchurch City Council strategic policy manager Claire Bryant said the proposed bylaw was not about clamping down on freedom campers.

"It is going to provide clarity for people to know where they can and cannot freedom camp, it also assures residents there are specific places for freedom campers."

The proposed by-law will go before a council committee this week.

If approved it will be opened up for public consultation and will come into force in time for summer.

Freedom campers in Christchurch carpark

Freedom campers in Christchurch carpark Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

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