An early influx of freedom campers has hit Nelson, including these campers who pitched their tent outside the Elma Turner Library last week. Photo: Jordan Woolley.

A month of freedom


Freedom campers have a month of total freedom until a new bylaw kicks in on December.
Nelson City Council says it is already fielding complaints of curious camping decisions, and many are taking to social media to vent their frustrations.

But the council is powerless until the bylaw comes into effect.

Last week a member of the public spotted a tent pitched by swings outside the Elma Turner Library – presumably to take advantage of the library’s free WiFi internet.

“I waited around but no one moved, so I guess they were asleep,” says Jordan Woolley, who snapped the photo after leaving work at midnight last Thursday.

However, the Nelson City Freedom Camping Bylaw does not take effect until December 1, after being adopted by the council in September.

When the bylaw comes in, it will see a ban on tents and non-self-contained vehicles in the central city. These will be restricted to official campgrounds and private accommodation facilities.

Certified self-contained vehicles will be allowed in city car parks, some reserves and residential streets outside the CBD – but there are tight restrictions on how many are allowed and how long they can stay.

Those who are in breach of the bylaw will receive a $200 fine.

Until then, council says it will put in place “transition provisions” which will involve enforcement staff approaching campers to educate them on the new bylaw.

“Staff will still be moving people on who aren’t camping responsibly,” says acting Nelson City Council chief executive David Hammond.

Last summer, the influx of freedom campers after the Kaikoura earthquake caused a headache for the city, resulting in the council spending $80,000 on setting up dedicated freedom camping sites.

David says he expects big numbers again this year and is confident the bylaw will work – although there may be an adjustment period.

“Around the country bylaws are working better for communities than areas without them,” he says. “Given the numbers we had through the city last summer, there were no major problems, however, it was clear that we needed a bylaw to better manage issues in the future.”

“However, as this is a new approach this season, we expect it may take some time for campers to understand and follow the new regulations.”

Environmental Inspections Limited have been contracted to carry out patrols in the evening and early morning, as well as respond to complaints.

There will also be signage in place at designated areas and information will be available through camping websites and apps, as well as on the council website.

The iSite will also have pamphlets available for campers and these will also be distributed to visitors.

Full details of the bylaw are available at and residents can make council aware of any issues by calling 546 0200, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.