Freedom camping set to become legal in Auckland
Freedom campers are about to have a lot more choice as to where they pitch their tent in Auckland - and residents are apprehensive.
Between February and March 2017, Auckland Council will conduct a trial of potentially 65 new sites across the city that could become free legal campsites.
But residents in one proposed site, the Browns Bay beach on Auckland's North Shore, were not too keen on the idea.
"I don't think Brown's Bay has the right facilities for that, so I'd prefer them not to open it up to freedom camping. There's no real shower facilities, I don't think it's an appropriate spot," Browns Bay resident Alta Rall said.
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"My take on it is freedom camping should be so you've got some options when you're further away in quieter places. I'm open to it but I think it's a pretty rough ask when you've got a busy place like this," Browns Bay resident Guy Dewe.
But in the North Shore's Milford Reserve, which has much more open space, residents largely approved of the idea.
"I think the more campsites the better, the more places people can visit the better. It has to be policed, I suppose, you couldn't have the whole place parked out with camper vans," Takapuna resident James Holley said.
"I did it [freedom camping] myself for a good three or four months myself in New Zealand when I travelled. So I kind of sympathise with the people who would like to free camp because it [camping] is quite expensive. Milford Reserve is definitely a good site for it," Stanmore Bay resident Daniel Silk said.
Auckland Council manager of social policy and bylaws Mike Sinclair was keen to stress that despite 65 camp sites being proposed for trial, council staff expect this will reduce to 15 to 20 sites following consultation with local boards.
The trial hopes to obtain information to ultimately designate more legal site options for freedom campers, who each year over-crowd designated sites and camp illegally in popular coastal and metropolitan areas.
Public complaints to council over freedom campers regularly cite over-flowing rubbish bins, reduced parking, and anti-social behaviour, such as lighting fires and drinking alcohol in prohibited areas.
Devonport-Takapuna Local Board deputy-chairman George Wood was highly critical of the lack of consultation by council staff over the proposed sites.
"You will see that the pilot has been set up without the input of the local boards but it has been to ATEED [Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development] and Auckland Transport," Wood said.
"This seems typical whereby the local boards are the last to hear about the scheme.
"In my view, it is time for the local boards to tell the officers as to who calls the shots - it is the elected members and not the paid officer corps."
Upper Harbour Local Board chairwoman Lisa Whyte also has major concerns with the seclusion of the proposed sites in her region.
"We actually have a lot of issues already with Hooton Reserve," Whyte said.
A man is allegedly living there and residents have said they don't feel safe walking there at night, she said.
"There's a big difference between a self-contained caravan pulling up somewhere for a night and someone living in a public reserve."
A workshop led by council staff with the 16 Auckland local boards involved in the trial will occur later this month to debate which of the 65 proposed freedom camping sites are unsuitable.