‘Please don’t swamp us’

Controlled space . . . Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall is flanked by some of the 15 freedom camping vehicles parked at Brighton Domain on Monday morning. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

The proliferation of freedom camping spots at roadside lay-bys and reserves at Brighton and Taieri Mouth is straining the tolerance of the local community.

Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall said residents had expressed frustration at Braid’s Hill Reserve, Brighton Surf Club Domain and various lay-bys from Brighton to Taieri Mouth being used by freedom campers.

“The feeling from the community is that people are OK with freedom camping in designated areas, but that they are unhappy with the proliferation of spots,” Mr Weatherall said.

“During the summer months, there can be 12 to 15 campers a night at every lay-by.”

There was also “significant kick-back” over freedom campers using Braid’s Hill Reserve and Brighton Surf Club Domain.

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

Freedom campers in non-contained vehicles can only camp at two designated sites Warrington Domain and Ocean View Recreation Reserve.

Mr Weatherall has been liaising with the council parks and recreation team to look for solutions to the issue on behalf of the Brighton community.

“We are happy to take our share for the city, but please don’t swamp us – that’s the message from the community,” he said.

Council parks and recreation group manager Robert West said the existing bylaw stated that any self-contained vehicle could be parked on “hard stand” for up to two nights.

“So, looking at areas such as Braid’s Hill Reserve, it is a hard surface area, so technically self-contained vehicles can park there,” Mr West said.

The freedom camping scene was constantly evolving, and council staff were always looking at how sites were managed around the city.

In addition, a review of the bylaw was being considered.

“The freedom camping numbers are changing season to season, and we need to make sure the bylaw is fit for purpose for the future,” he said.

Mr Weatherall said the Saddle Hill Community Board would put in a submission raising a variety of issues around freedom camping in Brighton and along Taieri Mouth Rd.

Mr West said council had doubled security and the number of rangers, who were closely monitoring the situation at sites such as Brighton Surf Club Domain, and would issue infringements if campers were parked on the grass.

Data was beginning to come in on freedom campers this season, and was showing “steady growth” so far, he said.

When The Star visited the designated Brighton Domain freedom camping site on Monday morning, there were 15 vehicles parked there were self-contained, but not all.

A station wagon, which was clearly not self-contained, had received a $200 infringement fine overnight.

Mr Weatherall hoped the car’s occupants had learned their lesson, and would make alternative arrangements.

“Two hundred dollars would get a nice hotel room, I would think,” he said.