Undercut by free holidays

00:19, Jan 15 2014
Inga Qualmann and Jennie Marquardt
Freedom campers Inga Qualmann and Jennie Marquardt from Germany

Freedom camping is turning Marlborough into a pit-stop for travellers, and taking money away from the region, upset campground owners say.

Parklands Marina Holiday Park owner Christian Lassueur said freedom campers, particularly in Koromiko, were hurting the campsite community in Picton.

The Marlborough District Council passed a bylaw in 2011 allowing campers to camp everywhere except for prohibited sites. Mr Lassueur said the bylaw was hurting the entire community.

Christian Lassueur
Missing out: Parklands Marina Holiday Park owner Christian Lassueur says freedom campers are hurting his business.

Picton campsites were particularly affected by the Collins Memorial Reserve in Koromiko, which had become a stop between Blenheim and Picton for people going to or from the Wellington ferry, he said.

This meant bars, restaurants and shops also missed out on business, Mr Lassueur said.

"[The council] should be helping the community, you know. People like me provide work to people here, I've been involved for 12 years teaching the kids football . . . we contribute to the community," he said.


Inga Qualmann and Eva Janfruechte
Freedom campers Inga Qualmann and Eva Janfruechte from Germany.

He thought a better alternative would be placing freedom campsites on areas further away from towns.

"The council is cutting the branch that we are sitting on . . . maybe [put them] way off the beaten track."

At least 30 campervans could be seen at the Koromiko site, on the corner of State Highway 1 and Freeths Rd, each night, as well as tents, which were not permitted there.

Freedom camping
Collins Memorial Reserve on SH1 in Koromiko between Picton and Blenheim is a popular freedom camping site.

"If I could only get another two . . . maybe two or three a night out of 30, that's $90 per day," he said.

His concerned were backed up by Picton Top Ten Holiday Park owner Roger Kett who said he often caught freedom campers using his toilets and showers.

"I don't have anything against wilderness camping, I have a problem with free camping . . . there are no other free things in the industry, no free backpackers, no free motels, why have these?"

Both men agreed that the sites were not being policed properly as people were regularly pitching tents on them.

Council reserves and amenities manager Rosie Bartlett said Marlborough's eight freedom camping sites were monitored by a reserves ranger, who was on duty seven days a week. "At this time of the year they are doing freedom camping patrols every day, although not necessarily getting to all designated or resisted areas every day," she said.

The times of the patrols varied, but were likely to be after 10pm or 4am.

Armourguard was contracted to patrol Picton public places nightly during the summer, and three times per week during winter.

Campers could be issued with fines if they were caught camping in tents, the wrong areas, or not in self-contained vehicles at campsites which were allocated for them, she said.

Ms Bartlett said the freedom camping bylaw was to be reviewed in the coming weeks, and the council was seeking feedback from the public suggesting any changes which might need to be made.

There was also the option of removing the bylaw in Marlborough altogether, instead introducing a local government act prohibiting freedom camping, she said.

The council could not prohibit freedom camping in certain areas under the bylaw because of "commercial competition," she said.

For camping in an area to be prohibited, the council needed to prove it was to protect health and safety of visitors to the site, to protect the area, or to protect access to the area.

"We do really really want to hear from people. If the council is going to make a decision either way we would like to know what the public think."

The council had received 38 submissions so far, which had mixed views, she said.

All submissions needed to be in writing.

They could be posted to Marlborough District Council, PO Box 443, Blenheim 7240 or emailed to freedomcampingsubmission@marlborough.govt.nz.

Submissions close on January 25.

The Marlborough Express