Published: March 20, 2017
With the busy tourism period coming to an end, Nelson’s temporary inner city freedom camping areas are due to close on 1 April 2017.
The additional freedom camping areas at Rutherford Park, Haven Road (adjacent to Anzac Park) and Akersten Street hardstand by the Marina were opened for campers on 23 December, following advice from Police that a marked increase in freedom campers should be expected in the aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake.
Following this, Council approached central government to allow an urgent bylaw to accommodate the increase of freedom campers which was expected to reach over 3000-4000 campers (compared to 1000 vehicles from the previous year).
This request was declined and, as a result, Council created short term solutions (with a consent in place to 1 April 2017) for these freedom camping areas to manage campers and alleviate an influx in the city centre.
Mayor Rachel Reese says with central government’s decision, creating the temporary freedom camping areas was the right thing to do.
“We have seen numbers of freedom campers visiting Nelson in excess of 6000 vehicles (over 12,000 visitors) – which is far higher than expected,” she says.
“Having those numbers in our inner city parking squares at Buxton and Montgomery Square would have put real pressure on these areas so ensuring they spread out to other areas was an important thing to do for our community.”
While this is the case, Mayor Reese says a more permanent solution is now needed.
As part of central government policy, freedom camping is allowed anywhere in New Zealand, although councils can regulate freedom camping locations through a bylaw.
“Council will be receiving Freedom Camping strategic plan at our full council meeting on March 23. This will allow a wider discussion on how a bylaw could work in terms of our overarching strategy for how we manage freedom camping. Council would then have the option to instruct a by-law to be prepared and be ready in time for the 17/18 summer season. If this was to occur, then I would expect a draft to be brought back to Council for consideration at our meeting on 4 May 2017.
“We cannot ban freedom campers – it is national legislation – we can only regulate it through a bylaw,” Mayor Reese says.
“We also want to encourage visitors to come to our region, but we need to ensure they are exploring our region in a way that doesn’t take away from how others enjoy our beautiful city,” she adds.
“It’s an important decision that needs to be had, and one which will need to consider what effects any restrictions may have on other areas, including our neighbours in Tasman.”
“I want to make it very clear though, we have listened to the public’s feedback and we are ready to have a robust conversation.”
Council also reiterates the use of its camping grounds as a great alternative to freedom camping sites.