$115,000 on freedom camping

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The Dunedin City Council spent at least $115,000 on providing direct services for freedom campers in the 2018-19 season.

Council figures released to The Star this week have revealed that expenditure specific to free camping included $109,450 for enforcement, $2126 for signage and brochures, and $4080 for a sink and water services at the Thomas Burns trial site.

Other less-specific costs included maintenance and refuse collection costs at reserves, covered under existing budgets.

DCC parks and cemetery manager Scott MacLean said this work was carried out at council reserves whether freedom campers used them or not.

“Having freedom campers staying at a site doesn’t necessarily translate into increased cost,” Mr MacLean said.

The installation of extra port-a-loos and smart bins at unrestricted sites during the long, busy summer and the employment of community rangers were funded by MBIE, he said.

Mr MacLean said a large part of the enforcement cost was recovered through 522 infringement notices, totalling $105,800, issued in the 2018-19 eason.

So far, $65,200 in fines had been received by council, he said.

The 2018-19 freedom camping season was the longest and busiest since the National government legislated it into existence in 2011, to provide opportunities for travellers during the Rugby World Cup.

The Thomas Burns car park trial was a resounding success, hosting 8431 overnight stays from November 30, 2018, to May 31, 2019.

This was more than 2000 campers ahead of Warrington, which hosted 6202 overnight stays, and more than three times that of Ocean View, which had 2646.

DCC planning and partnership manager John Brenkley said the Thomas Burns site had taken a lot of pressure off the other sites, which had helped the season run more smoothly.

“The season was managed quite differently than in previous years, with the Thomas Burns trial and having security patrols out there at night.

“So we are heading things off before they become problems.”

Spending by freedom campers in the city was being measured through analysis of questionnaires, which freedom campers at the Thomas Burns site were asked to fill out during the season.

The survey results will be presented to council’s planning and environment committee on Tuesday.

While he was unable to reveal figures, Mr Brenkley said freedom campers were spending in the city.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said the spend was positive. The services ensured Dunedin remained an attractive destination for all tourists and “not just freedom campers”.