Fury over freedom campers

TOO CLOSE: Auckland Council says no breaches have been found to date at the trial site on Fencible Drive. Times photo Kelly Teed

A Howick resident is furious over a freedom camping site being trialled near his
property.

Paul Venter first noticed the council signs giving freedom campers permission to park in the Fencible Drive carpark on Sunday morning – and says that was the first he’d heard of it.

It’s part of a freedom camping pilot programme run by Auckland Council which is currently underway at 27 sites across the Auckland region.

Auckland Council said the trial will run for a two-month period from February until the end of March, with all sites being closely monitored.

Mr Venter said he’s angry no one consulted him or his neighbours before the trial site was decided on.

“Not one person came and spoke to anybody who was affected by it – nobody – we have about 10 properties down our driveway – none of us would have consented to it.”

Mr Venter said although the signs stated only self-contained campervans were permitted, a campervan which was parked there was not.

He said he doesn’t understand why the site was created so close to people’s properties and where he said “there are no toilet facilities around”.

When the Times visited the site on Tuesday afternoon, a portaloo and rubbish bins were readily available and no campervans were present.

Manager of Bylaws and Compliance at Auckland Council Max Wilde said Council staff visited the Fencible Drive site on Saturday and found no freedom camping taking place.

He said the Council is frequently monitoring the site and to date no breach of the conditions has been found, nor rubbish or human waste.

Howick Local Board chairperson David Collings said residents had reported “rubbish, human and animal feces, fireworks and bottles being left and dumped around”.

He visited the site on Monday night after concerns raised by “a number of residents” and found no issues.

Mr Wilde said all the proposed campsites were approved by the relevant local board and after consultation with the Howick Local Board, the location of the trial site was moved to the other side of the carpark so there would be less impact on the neighbouring residential properties.

However Mr Venter wants them gone for good.

“I am incredulous anyone could think it was a good idea. Who in their right mind would want up to 20 campervans parked next to their property doing who knows what?

“We bought our house next to a public carpark not a campsite. I challenge anyone to say they would want that to happen [to them].”

Mr Venter raised his concerns in an email with local councillors over the weekend and had received responses from Councillor Gary Boles and David Collings who said they would keep an eye on the matter.

Mr Venter is also concerned about how the nearby campsite may affect property values in the area.

“If someone tried to sell their house – as a prospective buyer – would you like that?”

He’s calling for the signs allowing campervans to park to be removed and is worried about how long it will take people to realise if the campsites do not continue after the trial period.

“This is now all over freedom camping websites informing people [they can park here]. It’s supposed to be a two month pilot project but how long until those websites take the information down?”

Auckland Council says it will continue to closely monitor all of the sites taking place in the trial and will remove any site that has “major issues” from the programme.