German freedom campers Anna Bregulla (left) and Annika Maier at Tahunanui Beach yesterday.

Bylaw to ban freedom campers?

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A freedom camping bylaw will be discussed at the Nelson City Council’s first full meeting next month after backlash at the way the issue was handled this summer.

The bylaw would mean that unless the vehicle is self-contained, like a campervan, freedom campers would be forced to stay overnight at a motor camp.

Most of the vans that freedom campers drive are not self-contained.

The number of freedom campers in the region has been a cause of concern for many locals this summer and many have taken to social media to comment on where they sleep and the rubbish left behind.

After the Kaikoura earthquake in November, the council sent a request to central government to allow an urgent freedom camping bylaw to help cope with the expected influx of tourists no longer able to use State Highway 1 down the east coast.

The request was declined, so the council agreed to spend $80,000 to create three freedom campers areas, which included toilets, WiFi and other amenities.

These areas at Atkerson St at Port Nelson, Haven Rd near Anzac Park and Paru Paru Rd near the Trafalgar Centre saw more than 3500 campers stay in them from mid-December to early February.

But Nelson ratepayers weren’t happy at the amount of money being spent to accommodate freedom campers, who many saw as not benefiting the region financially.

Other areas, like Buxton car park and the car park at Tahunanui Beach, still attracted freedom campers, despite the special areas being set up to draw them away from those areas.
Deputy mayor Paul Matheson says he has received both positive and negative feedback about freedom campers.

“We’ve been listening to the concerns of a large number of residents, and we are keen to start looking at our options to determine if a bylaw would be the best way to make sure our city is protected and how it might work. We want tourists to come to our fair city, but we expect them to treat it with respect.

“Although we weren’t granted permission to implement an urgent bylaw for this year, I firmly hope that we could have something in place for next summer, as we will continue to receive these visitors”.

He says the council would hope to draft a bylaw in conjunction with Tasman District Council so there is consistency across the region.

The first full council meeting is scheduled for March 23.