Freedom camping review on

00:35, Mar 06 2014
Freedom campers
ON THE CHEAP: Freedom campers at Millers Acre car park in central Nelson.

What is the Mayor going to do about freeloaders setting up campsites in Nelson carparks? - Andrew Holmes, Nelson

Rachel Reese responds: I'm obliged to disclose that I am a camper - more of the tent variety than the van variety but both have been part of wonderful holiday experiences. I find great pleasure sleeping under canvas (or whatever our tent is made of these days) and the simple rituals of daily life in the campground.

I've also taken a big white van on holiday around Northland. Despite serious misgivings when the bloke at home booked this trip, I had a ball.

We set our own pace, stopping where we wanted while we worked around the weather forecast. We shared overnight stays between DOC and commercial campgrounds - some of the best waterfront views in New Zealand for a few dollars a night. Car park camping didn't feature in our holiday.

So what am I going to do about freedom camping in Nelson, particularly the inner city car park variety?

First, acknowledge that camping is a great way to have a holiday, and our climate and natural environment are a good fit. We want campers to come to our region and share the Nelson experience.


Secondly, recognise that we are not alone is addressing this issue. A look at gives an insight to the grumbles around the country.

The good people of Akaroa are having a particularly feisty time with the local boat ramp being blocked by freedom campers.

Next, we need to appreciate that not all campers are the same. Members of the NZ Motor Caravan Association shouldn't be lumped in with the "back of the car" campers.

The Freedom Camping Act 2011 allows for self-contained campers to be treated differently from non-self-contained campers. In my opinion we need to apply more weight to that distinction in Nelson.

A few weeks ago Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith put out a media release to highlight his concerns about freedom camping in our city. Putting to one side that it's election year, Dr Smith made a good point.

Millers Acre was the focus of the letter. If you're an evening moviegoer you may have parked next to the camper heating up risotto or frying a sausage. Or if you've turned up to the dentist for a morning appointment you could encounter the tourist brushing his teeth in his pyjamas. As a witty journalist said to me, it might be time to change the i-Site's name to Eye-Sore!

The minister has offered to address council on his concerns and I will be taking him up on this. The Freedom Camping Act 2011 doesn't allow us to ban freedom camping so I'll be interested to hear from the architect of the legislation on his preferences for freedom camping locations in the city.

So what controls do we have in Nelson now? We have a resource management plan that restricts where you can camp and makes public parks, reserves and residential areas no-go zones. But we don't have a Freedom Camping by-law to restrict non-self-contained campers in commercial areas.

We do have a council website that promotes locations for freedom camping close to public toilets, including Millers Acre. And that's where my personal view falls foul of the council position and the direction of the legislation.

Using public toilets to determine camping spots demonstrates a failure to understand how people camp. Quite simply, the council and building legislation won't let me have my toilet in my kitchen, in fact not even via a connecting door, but it's OK to have campers washing dishes in the handbasin in a public loo? That's not nice; in fact it's not healthy.

Sorting some better controls on freedom camping is a good task to attend to over the winter. I've asked the chief executive to bring a report to council so that we can review council's position that allows non-self-contained campers in our city car parks.

The outcome of that report will depend on whether my councillor colleagues are prepared to make some changes to address the concerns raised by the community. It will make for an interesting debate.