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

Council creates freedom camping spots for summer

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Three sites close to Nelson’s CBD to cater for freedom campers could be up and running as early as this Friday – at a cost of nearly $80k.

The city is expecting an “influx” of tourists and freedom campers in the city this summer following the closure of SH1 after the Kaikoura earthquake.

It would cost Nelson City Council an unbudgeted $78,000 to set up the three designated areas, which are located at the Akerston Hardstand, Rutherford Park, and Haven Rd beside Anzac Park.

Combined, the sites could accommodate up to 373 vehicles.

Non-notified resource consents have been lodged, and the sites would operate from December until March.

The budget would cover wi-fi, security/monitoring, bins, portaloo hire and cleaning, general cleaning and vandalism, portable water tankers and wi-fi at a cost of $65k.

Other additional costs would include securing consents, communications and signage totalling $13,000.

Mayor Rachel Reese says she was hoping to introduce a temporary freedom camping bylaw for this summer but since it is possible to have it in place in time for this summer, they needed something to “fill the gaps” and doing nothing was “not an option.”

Nelson City Councillors and the mayor voted on the late agenda item at last Thursday’s full council meeting with 11 supporting the idea, and two against it.

The two who were not in favour were councillors Tim Skinner and Ian Barker.

Cr Barker stated that the decision was “off the hoof” and “not properly thought out.”

“We’re throwing money at it – its bad decision making. The public won’t like it and it’s going to result in problems,” he said.

Cr Skinner said that it would be “lying out the red carpet” for freedom campers and it could take business off the city’s backpackers.

He, along with Cr Kate Fulton also questioned whether the wi-fi would be necessary.

But several councillors said that providing wi-fi was “crucial.”

Cr Paul Matheson said that since the majority freedom campers are from overseas it is “essential” for them to have wifi to keep in touch with their families.

Cr Matt Lawrey also spoke in favour of the idea.

“Wifi is just a modern fact of life – they will just go park somewhere they can get it. It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity – we want to show them a good time.”

Group Manager Infrstructre Alec Louverdis said that the sites where chosen for various reasons, including proximity to the CBD and ease of securing consents.

He stated that Nelson usually has around 1,000 freedom campers over the summer period in its two car parks – Buxton and Montgomery – with a peak of around 80 at any one time in each car park.

Signage in the carpark squares currently encourages freedom campers to use the Brook, Maitai and Tahuna motor camps, but since these are all outside of the CBD and require payment, they are not appealing.

“The intent is to encourage freedom campers not to use the city’s parking squares, but to ensure aggregation of campers for ease of security and monitoring in areas that are close to the CBD and easily managed,” he stated in his report.

It was also acknowledged that access wi-fi was important and need to “more than just a place to park their campervan.”

Other areas considered were Founders Park, Sovereign St skatepark, Neale Park at North Rd and Tahuna Beach.