Freedom campers unwelcome

Unwanted . . . Tomahawk resident Lloyd McGinty wants freedom campers banned from Smaills Beach car parks, because many campervans are not self-contained. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

Defecating campers have no place at Smaills Beach – and freedom camping should be banned from the area altogether, a Tomahawk resident says.

Lloyd McGinty said he had noticed a significant increase in freedom campers using the Smaills Beach car parks this summer, and many were defecating in the bushes, despite having self-contained signs on their vehicles.

“But it’s pretty obvious these vehicles don’t meet the criteria for freedom parking, as outlined by the government website.”

A contained vehicle must meet the caravan self-containment certification standard – it must be able to be lived in for three days without getting water or dumping waste and must have a toilet, freshwater storage, wastewater storage and a rubbish bin with a lid.

Speaking at the Otago Peninsula Community Board meeting last week, he said while some had the correct signage, they did not meet the requirements.

“Some of these vehicles are people-mover-type cars and are not set up for being self-contained.

“I have heard stories of tourists buying the self-containment stickers from other travellers.”

When he brought up the issue with fellow residents, he received an “avalanche” of comments.

Residents had seen campers walk into a bush and exit minutes later, having “gone to the toilet”.

“We’re working quite hard to document it and report it to the council and we have had a good response back.”

The three car parks, which could hold about 30 cars, were regularly full.

Board chairman Paul Pope conveyed the concerns to council parks and recreation group manager Robert West, who spoke to staff patrolling the area.

Mr McGinty said while that made a difference initially, he noticed the patrols had “dropped off”.

He asked for the board’s support to have the beach included in the prohibited zone.

Freedom campers are not allowed in Ocean Grove but are allowed at Smaills Beach.

Mr Pope said it was not the first time this issue had come up, and it raised questions about the effectiveness of security patrols, toilets and signage.

The board voted to ask the council to move the boundary for freedom camping to include Smaills Beach.

When contacted by The Star, Mr West said the council was aware of the concerns, and adding prohibited areas would require an amendment to the bylaw.

“The Camping Control Bylaw permits self-contained vehicles to overnight camp on any gravelled or sealed council land set aside for parking.”

The only exceptions were cemetery car parks, some reserve areas and prohibited zones on the peninsula.

“Enforcement officers will check for valid self-containment certificates – these are not to be confused with the blue stickers people display on the back of their vehicles.”

Infringement notices would be issued to campers in vehicles not displaying a valid certificate.

“At the time a certificate is issued, a vehicle will have to show it has an adequate freshwater supply and greywater system, and a toilet that can be used while the bed is made up.”