Camille Forest, Thomas Stahl and Thebaud Rambete enjoying the new Freedom Camping hub in Nelson. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Freedom campers welcomed into city

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Nelson City Council has rolled out the welcome mat for visitors after transforming a former petrol station into a freedom camping hub.

The facility, which was funded by $250,000 from the Government, was originally proposed for Tahunanui, but stern public opposition forced the council to look elsewhere.

The unused area at 20 Halifax Street, formerly the Z Service Station, was chosen as the location for the temporary daytime facility. It began operation on January 8 and will be open through to February 28.

The facility will provide a waste station, toilets and showers for tourists.

Council says it will be staffed to ensure the site is used responsibly and will not be available for overnight use.

French travellers Camille Forest, Thomas Stahl and Thebaud Rambete were in desperate need of a shower when they arrived in Nelson and were surprised to find a facility that would cater to them for free.

The trio arrived on Friday and found the hub through the app ‘Campermate.’

“It’s pretty perfect,” says Thomas.

“Its so nice to find something like this to have a shower and just recharge,” Camille says.

Thebaud says it’s mentally rewarding after a long journey on the road.

“It is very good for morale and keeps us comfortable.”

In 2019 Nelson City Council received $256,878 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Responsible Camping Fund to go towards responsible camping initiatives in Nelson.

These initiatives include an increased ambassador and enforcement programme, additional waste management and recycling services, a user survey and the creation of a temporary daytime facility for visitors with non-self-contained vehicles.

Chair of the Sports and Recreation Committee, Tim Skinner, says that by increasing their ambassador and enforcement programme, they can help ensure everyone has a positive experience.

“The MBIE fund enables us to not only extend the services we provide visitors to our city over summer, but also ensure that they have the correct information on where they can spend the night in their vehicles.”

Total estimated spending by visitors to New Zealand who said their visit included some freedom camping has increased significantly in recent years, from $210 million in 2013 to $540 million in 2018.

According to MBIE, these visitors spend half as much per day but stay three times as long, meaning they tend to spend more per visit than those whose visit did not include some freedom camping.