Campers must 'respect' city

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 13:00 20/02/2014
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Freedom campers are devaluing New Zealand's tourism industry, a Nelson hostel owner says.

Nelson politicians have been fielding numerous complaints about tourists camping in carparks in the city, and local businesses have told the Nelson Mail that there need to be changes to freedom camping bylaws.

Millers Acre is a popular spot, with about 40 vehicles there each night over summer.

Businesses and residents say the campers are putting a strain on facilities in the area and creating a mess.

In response, the Nelson City Council is introducing additional enforcement in the area, more frequent cleaning of the public toilets, and more education on what is expected from freedom campers in the city.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said she welcomed responsible freedom campers but wanted them to respect the city and its residents.

"I want to assure residents that council will address the long-term concerns in a balanced way that encourages tourism while meeting their expectations for an attractive city," she said.

The Palace Backpackers owner Dave Enting said freedom camping was "devaluing the entire tourism industry as well as scenic spots".

He said that while food and alcohol were expensive in New Zealand, budget accommodation was not, and the Nelson region had some of the best hostels in the world. Tourists staying at his hostel received a cooked breakfast and coffee, and had access to a spa pool.

"We are being undermined by the campervan phenomena. I really don't think it should be allowed for campervans to be rented in New Zealand without the [toilet] facility on board."

Some businesses in the Millers Acre carpark said they did not mind the campers, and one receptionist joked that some of the young men provided a bit of morning eye candy.

However, they said there was also the more serious issue of campers urinating in public.

Millers Acre Cafe and Creperie owner Liz Butler said she was sick of seeing campers walking around in their underwear or pyjamas, and she was constantly being asked for toilet paper, sugar, cutlery and hot water.

She charged $1 for hot water but said most of the campers were not even willing to pay that.

She said the cafe now hid its sugar and serviettes, as she was sick of campers coming in and taking them without purchasing anything.

"They don't want to spend money on accommodation, but we are subsiding their accommodation. To be a tourist, they should have some money instead of bludging off the rest of us," she said.

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Simply New Zealand shop assistant Sue Codyre said she enjoyed seeing the campers in the carpark.

"It's nice to have them and see a bit of life out there."

She said they were law-abiding, though she wanted the toilets in the area to be improved to accommodate them.

"They are well-behaved, and the tourists are happy to be there and very respectful.

"It may provide security as well. They interact with each other. It's nice."

However, campers' reluctance to pay to use facilities has been having an effect on a city campground.

Nelson City Holiday Park manager Chrissy Clements said freedom campers often sneaked into the campground at night to use the showers.

"They like to park outside the entry to our park and sneak in at 2am and have a shower."

She had witnessed 14 such incidents over the past month. "We tell them it's against the law, and if they want to shower they have to pay for it."

She said the campground was full most nights and was especially busy over the Christmas-New Year period. Campers could park there for about $40 a night.

- The Nelson Mail

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