Freedom camping complaints fall

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Despite a 20% increase in the number of freedom campers around Dunedin so far this season, resident complaints and the number of infringement notices handed out have halved.

About 5450 camping vehicles were counted at freedom camping areas on Dunedin’s north coast, south coast, Otago Peninsula, city centre and South Dunedin during November-December 2018.

That number grew to 6498 in November-December last year.

By far, the greatest number of freedom campers were attracted to the city centre and South Dunedin, where more than 2870 vehicles parked up in November-December last year.

The north and south coasts of Dunedin were also popular spots in the same period last year, recording 1723 and 1846 vehicles, respectively.

Dunedin City Council parks and recreation group manager Robert West said he was delighted there had been an increase in freedom campers, and was equally delighted there had been a 49% reduction in resident complaints and a 56% decrease in the number of infringement notices issued.

Freedom camping complaints declined from 41 in November-December 2018, to 21 over the same period last year.

The number of freedom camping infringement notices issued and upheld also decreased, from 153 in 2018 to just 67 last year.

Under the existing camping control bylaw, certified self-contained vehicles can stay for up to two nights on most gravelled or sealed Dunedin City Council land set aside for parking, including lay-bys.

Freedom campers in non-self-contained vehicles can only camp at designated sites.

Mr West said most of the infringement notices handed out so far this season were for camping in a restricted area without a valid self-containment certificate (36) and for failing to park in a designated area displayed on site (32).

Infringements were also issued for camping in a prohibited zone; failing to depart by the specified time; and camping on the same site for more than two consecutive nights.

Mr West believed freedom campers had been better behaved so far this season because the DCC had implemented several initiatives to improve compliance with the camping control bylaw.

“These include increased education through our community ranger programme, increased provision of facilities (like toilets, rubbish bins etc), an increase in enforcement patrols/coverage and a further trial of the Thomas Burns car park as an unrestricted freedom camping site.

“We have seen a decrease in infringements and complaints following the implementation of these initiatives.”

The council would continue to monitor infringement rates throughout the camping season and adjust enforcement, community ranger patrols and the provision/maintenance of facilities if issues arose.

A review of the bylaw was being considered because freedom camping numbers were changing from season to season, and the council needed to make sure it was fit for purpose in the future, he said.

Results from a freedom camper survey carried out last season showed about $3.4million was spent by freedom campers in Dunedin.

Given the increase in freedom campers visiting, it was hoped the amount spent would also increase.

“We are continuing to survey campers this season and will be able to provide the results at a later date.”