A protester at last week's community meeting. Photo: Jonty Dine

Council bows to pressure on freedom camping

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Nelson City Council has bowed to a community outcry condemning a proposed freedom camping hub in Tahunanui.

Tensions flared at a heated community meeting last week as residents voiced their outrage at the proposal.

NCC group manager of community services Roger Ball says Council explored options for a daytime facility for tourists without self-contained vehicles, and as part of this consulted with a number of residents and stakeholders.

However he says following “feedback,” options for a temporary daytime facility at Tahunanui were ruled out.

“Our focus for the time being is on utilising the MBIE funding for other initiatives, such as education, monitoring, litter and safety.”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment allocated the city $256,878 for a Freedom Camping Hub to include showers, toilets, laundry facilities and WiFi.

Nelson facilities asset planner Paul Harrington says they looked at about 30 potential sites including the car park adjacent to the Tahuna Skate Rink.

“The area jumped out because it’s locked at night and has a parking area.”

However, the proposed site for this hub made Tahuna residents furious.

Council chair of recreation and sport, councillor Tim Skinner, had barely opened the meeting before objections were yelled from the crowd.

Tahuna was the frontrunner for the site and Tim told residents he was there “to get some feedback”.

The residents obliged and let their feelings be known. “You’re nuts,” one exclaimed.

Paul said they know there are issues with freedom camping.

“We get a lot of complaints about people washing their bodies in public toilets, hanging their knickers out to dry, putting rubbish in full bins. So, the idea of these hubs is that it’s daytime only, staffed and on timers.”

Tim said the hub was not to encourage overnight camping, but to improve behaviour.

“We are trying to manage them better, it’s not about letting them camp here.”

This was met with cries of “freeloaders” from the increasingly agitated crowd.

“This campground (Tahuna) has been here for 90 years. There are 50 acres, 500 sites at $21 a night – if they are not prepared to spend $21 a night, we don’t want to see them in this town,” one man shouted, which was met with applause.

Accusations of “bloody arrogance” were thrown at the councillors for what the residents say was improper consultation.

“Take it somewhere else. This isn’t consulting, if you’re going to put a hub here, what are you going to do for the people that use this area now, how are you going to cater for them?”

Another said the hub would be completely undermining a whole lot of businesses.

“Why have you chosen the most treasured part of the city? We don’t want to make it appealing for them.”

The push back from residents prompted council to back down on the idea and has since ruled out the hub in Tahuna, saying it would not work in the area.

Paul says data from other councils has shown these hubs send more people to campgrounds.

However, this was not accepted by the residents.

“Are we as ratepayers not more important than freedom campers from Germany?”