Auckland Council frees up 29 new overnight spots for freedom camping

Freedom campers have a range of new sites available to them from late February to late April.
GRANT MATTHEW/Fairfax NZ

Freedom campers have a range of new sites available to them from late February to late April.

Freedom campers across Auckland are now freer than ever, as dozens of new overnight sites become available to them.

In a two-month pilot starting this week, 29 locations from Wellsford in the north to Pukekohe in the south have been highlighted as safe havens for tourists in campervans and tents to stay overnight.

Auckland Council said the scheme was an effort to combat increasing tensions between freedom campers and locals in Auckland, after a bumper tourism season.

The "dispersal programme" hopes to see freedom camping visitors spread out over the multitude of new locations across the city, rather than crowd into the few well-known hot spots.

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"If we can encourage campers into new areas, we hope to reduce overcrowding and spread the tourism dollar to other local board economies, while also introducing visitors to some of the lesser-known but lovely corners of our city," Councillor Linda Cooper, chairwoman of the council's regulatory committee, said.

Campers bring an estimated $1.2 million a month into Auckland's economy over summer, and Cooper estimated 320 freedom camping vehicles per day are either travelling on the region's roads or parked in public places.

"We want to be welcoming hosts to our visitors. However, the influx of freedom campers into hot spot areas - particularly in northeastern coastal and inner city locations - is creating problems. 

"Overcrowding, parking and access difficulties, and increasing rubbish at popular destinations is frustrating local communities and other park users."

She said the sites included parking lots, pre-existing freedom camping spots, parks, and reserves and were selected following extensive consultation with local boards.

At the outer edges of Auckland, the Franklin and Rodney local boards put forward seven and eight sites respectively for the pilot scheme, and the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board chose five sites. 

Other sites are based in the Howick, Maungakiekie-Tāmaki, Upper Harbour and Panmure, Puketapapa and Albert-Eden Local Boards.

Throughout the trial, council officers will ensure the sites are kept well-maintained and tidy, with clear accessways for the public to traverse and park, Cooper said.

The issue lies in travellers overloading amenities at the few well-known spots, causing strife for the local residents, Auckland Council's manager of social policy and bylaws, Michael Sinclair, said.

"They have been known to overload the rubbish bins, which are only designed for day-to-day use, not camping use. 

"And they may go into a public toilet, that's got one or two basins designed for casual use and end up doing their whole ablutions there, which is not so nice for the people who use it all the time."

Sinclair said freedom campers have also been known to overwhelm parking areas to places such as beachs, so locals can't get a spot. 

He said the new spots have been considered based on availability of rubbish and bathroom facilities, and where inadequate, extra port-a-loos will be brought in and rubbish collected more frequently. 

Auckland Council operates 44 campgrounds in regional parks throughout Auckland and there are also three holiday parks. 

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 - Stuff.co.nz

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