5 Dec 2016

Freedom campers overrun surf spot

8:04 pm on 5 December 2016

An app points freedom campers to a small South Taranaki break, leading local surfers to chain the toilet block and ask them to leave.

Freedom campers at the South Taranaki break at Paroa Road.

Freedom campers at the South Taranaki break at Paroa Road. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Okato surfer Chris Wilkes said Paora Road, a well-known South Taranaki break, was overrun and the new freedom camping bylaw was not being policed.

The bylaw allows three self-contained vehicles there a night.

"Basically we have a carpark being used as a campground and we had about 28 vehicles here last night," he said.

Mr Wilkes chained up the toilet, which he said was overflowing, though the council's Brent Manning said the water had been tested and shown to be groundwater.

Mr Wilkes chained up the toilet, which he said was overflowing, though the council's Brent Manning said the water had been tested and shown to be groundwater. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"I tell them there's a campground just five minutes down the road. They can go down there and, for $5 a night, there's showers and toilets available so it's a much better option."

Mr Wilkes said most of the campers had been understanding and left, but others refused to budge. He took the registration numbers of those who stayed and later chained up the toilet.

"You've got a small toilet here that's not actually designed for the capacity ... It's actually overflowing at the moment."

Surfer Chris Wilkes said he had asked some of the campers to leave and chained up the toilet because it was overflowing.

Surfer Chris Wilkes said he had asked some of the campers to leave and chained up the toilet because it was overflowing. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mr Wilkes said more needed to be done to control the situation before it led to a confrontation.

Fellow surfer Nigel Carter said a freedom camping app had made things worse.

"I've had a guts full and it's only been since it's all been on CamperMate. It's just been an onslaught everyday but some days there's 20 to 30 cars camped down here.

Surfer Nigel Carter

Surfer Nigel Carter Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"They roar down here at speed and cover you in dust. None of them surf. They set up here with their tables and chairs, light fires and festoon the bushes with toilet paper."

Mr Carter said freedom campers should be charged like they were in Hawaii, with the money channelled back into the community.

German backpackers Lisa Reinhardt and Nina Schrimb said they found Paora Road via the CamperMate app.

Ms Reinhardt said they did not initially know there was a limit on the number of vehicles and were confused about what the rules were.

German backpackers Lisa Reinhardt and Nina Schrimb.

German tourists Nina Schremb and Lisa Reinhardt said it was not clear where they could or could not camp. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"Other German people say to us that only three on this side. I don't know. At camping grounds we were at before it's not only three. There was, I don't know ... many."

South Taranaki District Council engineering manager Brent Manning said an unprecedented number of freedom campers had been reported.

"To be fair I think what we are seeing is the result perhaps of what has gone on at Kaikōura with the earthquakes, that has probably seen some travellers re-route their plans.

"Also we're riding on the hype of Taranaki being one of the top two places to visit in the world according to Lonely Planet - so no doubt word is getting out."

Mr Manning said the council was encouraging people to get in contact if the rules were broken because it was not going to actively police the freedom camping bylaw.

He drew the line at vigilante-style antics however.

"One of our staff has been out this morning to unbolt or to release whatever was put around the toilets.

"I suspect that's someone wanting to make their views known about not being happy about what's going on."

Mr Manning said the toilet at Paora Road was safe to use and water running through a nearby culvert had been tested and was groundwater.

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