Freedom camping row

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 20/01/2014

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Freedom campers flocking to New Zealand shores have been causing headaches at popular tourist spots.

In the south, tensions have boiled over into verbal conflict at Akaroa's boat ramp. Up to 20 campervans have been parking up by the ramp, clogging up the car park and creating chaos when boaties want to launch early in the morning.

In nearby Duvauchelle, freedom campers had been parking outside the campground - and using their facilities, Akaroa-Wairewa Community Board chairwoman Pam Richardson said.

On the West Coast, the Grey District Council's freedom camping officer has been slapping fines on up to 10 freedom campers a night, most in Cobden.

Richardson said there had been "an explosion" of freedom campers flocking to Banks Peninsula this summer, also affecting French Farm, Wainui and Catons Bay near Little River. The tensions between boaties and freedom campers at the Akaroa boat ramp had so far played out verbally, but there was concern it could turn physical, Richardson said.

There were responsible campers, such as those in the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, but many others were not.

Human faeces had been discovered in flax bushes near the Duvauchelle Hotel, she said.

Akaroa Jet owner/operator Brett Fea said he was not bothered by the freedom campers, although on one occasion he was unable to park his trailer in the boat ramp car park because of them.

"There are 15 campervans any night of the week. All sitting outside, having breakfast, cooking, pots and pans everywhere."

A holiday park overlooks the boat ramp.

There were no bylaws or signage prohibiting that activity by the Akaroa boat ramp, but the community board planned to discuss how to address the issue at its next meeting on Wednesday.

Fellow board member Bryan Morgan said free campers at Catons Bay rarely stayed a second night - the residents there let their roosters out.

"Unless they are making a huge mess, they are not worth the effort to crack down on," he said.

Grey District Council compliance team manager Kevin Hebberd said freedom campers got no warnings in the region.

The council brought in a freedom camping bylaw in late 2012.

Before that, "we spent two years giving warnings and the problem kept getting worse", Hebberd said.

The council's freedom camping officer issued 15 infringement notices over two nights last week.

Cobden beach was the main problem spot, where only certified self-contained campervans were permitted to park up for the night in designated areas.

"We've also had a number of complaints and comments about faeces in lay-bys and on the beaches," Hebberd said.

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The Christchurch City Council has received four reports about camping in urban parks since November 2013.

Parks operations manager Ross Campbell said it was predominantly overseas travellers freedom camping in parks and roadsides at this time of year.

They were often seen on the Port Hills and coastal areas.

Department of Conservation Takaka Conservation Services manager John Mason said there tended to be an influx of freedom campers to Golden Bay after a music festival. This summer had been no different to any other.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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