Freedom campers pay $124K

Playing by the rules . . . German freedom campers Marc Hasler (left) and Danny Sumpter prepare to depart from the Ocean View Recreation Reserve in Dunedin last week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

About half of the nearly $240,000 of freedom camping infringement notices issued in Dunedin has been paid.

Dunedin City Council data reveals infringement notices worth $239,800 were issued in the city up to the end of last month.

Of the 1199 infringement notices issued, 617, worth a total of $123,600, had been paid.

Council parks and recreation group manager Robert West said the first infringement under the Camping Control Bylaw was issued in November 2015.

He was “unsurprised” 352 infringement notices remained unpaid, as most freedom campers lived overseas and could return home without paying, Mr Weston said.

He declined to comment on whether freedom campers should have to pay to be able to leave New Zealand, saying it was something for central government to consider rather than local government.

Of the infringement notices issued in Dunedin, 19% had been waived, he said.

In some cases they were waived because they were issued to homeless Dunedin residents sleeping in cars, who were mistaken for freedom campers.

Of the tickets issued, 51% were for freedom camping in a restricted area in a non-certified vehicle and 37% for camping outside a designated area.

When asked if the council had provided enough signage to make it clear where freedom camping was allowed, Mr West said the council reviewed freedom camping each season.

The review of the latest season would show if the council needed to make the restrictions clearer to freedom campers.

German freedom campers Marc Hasler and Danny Sumpter have been travelling around New Zealand on working holiday visas for about a year.

If they had work, they stayed in a hostel, but if they were between jobs, they freedom-camped in a van they bought when picking kiwifruit in Tauranga, they said.

After spending a day sightseeing in Dunedin last week, they parked the van at the Ocean View Recreation Reserve.

Mr Hasler said the designated area for freedom camping in the reserve was full before dusk.

“We got the last space,” Mr Sumpter said.

The city council should create bigger areas in Dunedin for freedom campers to stay, Mr Sumpter said.

Camping grounds were often closed if freedom campers arrived in a town late in the day, so they had nowhere to go.

They had been fined for freedom camping overnight in a prohibited area once, near a river in Takaka in the Tasman district, Mr Sumpter said.

The fine was waived because of a lack of signage in the area about the restrictions.

The council needed to make its restrictions clearer, Mr Sumpter said.

The clearest freedom camping restrictions were in Motueka, where the ground was colour-coded to display the area where certain types of freedom camping vehicles were allowed to park, he said.

Mr Hasler said he had sensed hostility from New Zealanders towards freedom campers.

“You can see it in their face.”

An 18-year-old German woman, who did not want to be named, said she was travelling across New Zealand in a station wagon by herself for 10 months on a working holiday visa after finishing high school.

She had been mostly staying in hostels in New Zealand but was between jobs so decided to save money by freedom camping at the Ocean View Recreation Reserve last Thursday night.

She arrived at the reserve after dark and the freedom camping spaces were full.

She saw a sign about camping regulations but parked her car in a restricted area in the reserve because she did not want to wake the sleeping campers.

“I didn’t want to disturb anyone. I thought it would be all right but it wasn’t all right.”

She woke in the morning to discover a $200 ticket under her windscreen wiper.