The Farigola family made use of the freedom camping site at New World. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Too much freedom for campers?

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Tourists are looking to travel for free – offering little benefit to the community, a local holiday park owner says.

The summer season always sees thousands of campers come to Nelson to soak up the sun, sea and sights.

However, what should be a booming time for businesses is becoming less beneficial as campers seek to save their money by finding free campsites.

Nelson City Top10 Holiday Park manager Liana Hendry says freedom campers are being lured away from sanctioned sites to stay in non-approved car parks for free.

She says New World on Vanguard St have had between 10-20 campervans staying in its carpark overnight.

“I send my guests down there to shop at their supermarket and they are pretty much saying stay there for free instead.”

A sign inside the store reads: ‘Tourists, campervans, self-contained campervans are welcome to stay overnight in our carpark for free.’

“It is not good enough, we have to meet Health and Safety laws to have people stay here and don’t think its fair people can park up for free less than 500 metres from our site.”

She says local businesses are suffering as a result.

“We have 23 sites that we do well with, but at the same time there are a number of much larger camps close to us which would benefit from those campers staying at their park as opposed to wherever they choose.”

Head of external relations for Foodstuffs NZ, Antoinette Laird, says Nelson city New World allows self-contained campers in its car park overnight so that they have a safe place to sleep.

“Now that summer is in full swing, more campers and trampers are exploring the wonderful scenery and outdoors our country has to offer.

“Because the car park is well-lit and covered by security cameras, self-contained campers can feel confident in knowing they are safe in the neighbourhood at Nelson City New World.”

However, Liana says, as well as not contributing to the local economy, campers are not adhering to the bylaws and are parking in places not approved by the council.

“There are a lot of vans parking outside the designated areas in the Montgomery Car Park, they should be moved on. I am concerned about the businesses around here that are trying to provide a service for the tourists, but the tourists are wanting to travel our country for free.”

While the steady flow of campers continues, council says visitors have finally started to clean up their act.

Freedom campers have caused controversy in recent times, burning fires, leaving litter, washing in sinks and leaving faeces on the ground.

The 2017/18 summer was the first year that Nelson’s Freedom Camping Bylaw was in effect.

The bylaw was adopted to ensure the region “stays beautiful and accessible for all to enjoy”.

“We are now into the second summer of enforcement of the bylaw and the number of infringement notices being issued has declined,” Nelson City Council group manager of environmental managemen, Clare Barton, says.

In December 2017, Council issued 53 infringement notices and in December 2018 a total of 41 were issued.

“On the whole, campers have been respectful of our environment and abiding by the regulations laid out in the Freedom Camping Bylaw.”

Clare says this is particularly pleasing given the influx of people to the city for the inaugural Bay Dreams.

“This has been welcomed and appreciated, especially during the busy period surrounding the Bay Dreams Festival.”

Nelson City Council will impose a $200 fine on campers not adhering to the rules.

The maximum period of stay in any of the restricted locations is two consecutive nights on no more than two separate occasions in any calendar month.

Night is defined as being from 10pm until 7am only.

The following are Nelson City Council designated freedom camping spots: Wakapuaka Reserve carpark, Maitai Cricket ground car park, QE II Drive Gardens, Trafalgar Park – Haven Foreshore, Buxton Carpark, Montgomery carpark, Wakatu carpark, Isel Park – Main Road Stoke carpark.