Freedom camping – the community speaks up

Since the Auckland Council announced seven proposed sites for freedom camping in the Howick ward –  Barry Curtis Park, Eastern Beach, Howick Beach, Lloyd Elsmore Park, Mangemangeroa Reserve, Howick Library and the Moore Street carpark – residents have been up in arms. The Times was inundated with responses from the community on what they think about the new proposed freedom camping spots.

“I can’t think of anything worse.”

“Freedom bludgers”

“This is a crazy idea”

The response to Auckland Council’s announcement that seven locations around the Howick ward are being considered as freedom camping spots has been fierce.

Residents and ratepayers across the ward have weighed in on why they think freedom campers should not be allowed to make themselves at home around east Auckland.

Many believe the proposed sites are simply too small to facilitate freedom campers, while others believe vandalism, property damage and litter will skyrocket should the proposal go ahead.

Steve Lincoln from Botany says he has heard many horror stories over the years of freedom campers behaving badly, illegally dumping waste, crowding beach areas, and not following the rules.

And he says with overcrowding in Auckland, beach facilities, parking and reserves are already stretched to the limit without adding freedom campers to the mix.

“If you want to camp you must find a camping park with the facilities to support this,” he says.

Arthur Moore from Pakuranga agrees and says while the campers vans may be self contained the effluents has to be disposed of some time and he wonders where Council expect this will be done.

He also also says providing free camping spots around the Howick ward takes business away from from legitimate camping ground proprietors and imposes further costs on the “already burdened” ratepayer and the taxpayer.

However the response isn’t all bad.

Some have expressed that freedom camping gets a bad wrap and council should be doing more to support freedom camping in the Howick ward.

Local Bruce Powley says allowing freedom campers in the Howick ward could be great for our local businesses.

“As a business person myself I know when the local economy is down and the tourist come into town, it can make a difference between staying afloat and going under,” says Powley.

He also says residents shouldn’t be so quick to assume it is visitors to our beaches and reserves that are responsible for vandalism and rubbish dumping.

“In any park or beach there is always going to be litter or unruly behaviour. The question is who is doing this – locals or freedom campers?”

A former operations manager for a motorhome rental company who asked not to be named says New Zealand needs to change their attitude towards freedom campers and make overseas freedom campers feel more welcome.

She says it’s not just a matter of supplying freedom campers with places to park, but also provides the necessary facilities they need.

She says she acknowledges residents concerns but says rather than banning freedom camping all together, Council should look at setting up better facilities for freedom campers in the ward.

She says in feedback sessions with freedom campers their biggest complaints were road users being unfriendly towards motorhomes, lack of basic facilities such as rubbish bins at most freedom camping spots, and the lack of waste dumping facilities.

She says there is a stigma that freedom campers and motorhome users take advantage of the land and environment they use, and she says this simply isn’t the case.