31 Oct 2016

Punakaiki seeks freedom camper free zone

7:40 am on 31 October 2016

Residents in busy West Coast town Punakaiki are calling for an urgent crack-down on freedom campers as the tourist season nears.

Tourists enjoy the main blowhole in action at the Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Tourists enjoy the main blowhole in action at the Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki Photo: 123RF

With only about 130 permanent residents in the greater Punakaiki area, 75 have signed a petition calling for a zone to be set up in the town where no freedom camping is allowed.

One of the petition's organisers, Craig Findlay, said soft regulations around freedom camping meant locals were dealing with strained resources, congestion, littering and undisposed human waste.

"They are also in the habbit of stealing showers, going through the tavern and using the toilet facilities to wash their teeth and face without putting any money back into the local economy ... so it's just take, take, take and no give," said Mr Findlay, who chairs the Punakaiki Promotions Group and runs a beach camp in the township.

It was was not just accommodation providers who were fed up, he said; the fact that 75 residents had signed the petition spoke for itself.

Buller mayor Garry Howard

Buller district mayor Garry Howard Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The petition will be presented to Buller District Council, Grey District Council and the Department of Convervation, which manage the land.

Buller district mayor Garry Howard said although the residents' concerns were valid, the council needed to follow a process and could not rush through freedom camping bylaws.

"We hear quite clearly the issues that Punakaiki is facing, but there is a process, it's not something we can change just at one council meeting without giving proper consideration and public consultation."

Mr Howard said it would be speaking with the affected ratepayers in Punakaiki, about what the next step should be.

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