Nelson freedom camping area 'a mess'
Businesses near Nelson's Akersten St freedom camping site dread the possibility it might be used next year.
They say they faced an increase in traffic, overstayers and a noticeable increase in rubbish and wastewater issues since the Nelson City Council made it a freedom camping site.
However, police say overall there were fewer complaints about freedom camper behaviour in the central city this summer, possibly because the temporary sites had reduced the number of campers in the CBD.
At the Akersten St site this week, litter was littered strewn throughout the grounds. Campers had left behind backpacks and clothing. Seagulls attacked bags of rubbish.. Bins overflowed and the in-ground plastic tank used for grey water was brimming.
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Diving Services New Zealand owner Bruce Lines said he was often away on business but every time he returned since the site was set up it had been "a mess".
Lines said he had complained to the council throughout summer and again called this week about the need for maintenance.
"It's been pretty average. After I contacted NCC about the mess they came today [Tuesday] and did a huge clean up of the site."
He said the council assured him the site would be cleaned every two days.
The council allocated $80,000 to set up Akersten St, Rutherford Park and Haven Rd as sites for freedom campers this summer because of a projected huge influx of travellers. The areas had free Wi-Fi, portaloos and basic infrastructure in a bid to shift freedom campers away from Buxton and Montgomery carparks.
Rutherford Park was closed earlier this year and the other two sites will close at the end of the month.
Berth holder and nearby Talley's worker Andy Smith said he had noticed a significant increase in rubbish and expected the council would experience considerable push-back if it was to use the site for freedom campers in future.
"Council has had to put in many more rubbish bins. They had to put a plastic 1000-litre cube in the ground for the waste water because there's probably over 100 cars there most days," he said.
"I think they should be policing it a bit more because a lot of people are staying there more than the two days they're supposed to be there."
Steve Donker, of Motueka Nets Nelson on Akersten St, said the freedom camping spot was positioned away from the business but he had noticed an increase in traffic.
He said despite summer ending, the numbers of freedom campers using the site had not eased. But, he thought bins had been changed regularly.
Nelson Bays Area Commander Inspector Mat Arnold-Kelly said police had noted a decrease in the number of reports to police in relation to freedom camping disputes over the last summer.
He said a possible reason for the decrease was a lower number of campers in the CBD which presented problems last year.
Nelson City Council communications manager Paul Shattock said the consent for Akersten St finished on April 1 and a programme was in place to shut the site in coming weeks.
"However, under the consent, the council does have the option of using the sites seasonally until 2020 if required. Council will be discussing its overall approach to freedom camping in the coming months so there is no decision on this as yet," he said.
"Some complaints have been received and these have been responded to these as they arose."
Shattock said a security company visited the Akersten St site three times a day and a supervising contractor made visits generally every two days, or as issues arose.
He said there had been reported incidences where freedom campers had overstayed the two night minimum and they were removed from the site. Campers were also removed if deemed non-compliant in terms of tidiness and respect to others.
"Toilets and wastewater are cleared every second day and rubbish is removed either once or twice a day, depending on demand," Shattock said.
"Most campers are using the Akersten St site but there was a small increase noted at Buxton Carpark after the Rutherford Park area closed."
A bylaw restricting freedom campers in Nelson could be in place by summer with a vote to consider restricting or prohibiting the travellers before a full council meeting on March 23.